Author Topic: Divine Deception -- S4E24: Series Finale  (Read 12472 times)

Offline chetanhaobijam

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Re: Divine Deception -- Season 4 Promo Ad
« Reply #250 on: May 30, 2017, 12:12:44 AM »
Stunning Promo. Waiting for it.
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Re: Divine Deception -- Season 4 Promo Ad
« Reply #251 on: May 31, 2017, 11:08:16 AM »
Thanks, will keep you updated!  ;)



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Re: Divine Deception -- Season 4 Teaser Shots
« Reply #252 on: July 02, 2017, 11:03:51 AM »
Hey guys!

Leading up to the fourth season, I am going to start posting little tidbits. From promo images and dropping hints to the actual trailer, you can get your Divine Deception fill here! :P Enjoy!
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Re: Divine Deception -- Season 4 Teaser Shots
« Reply #253 on: July 03, 2017, 02:38:20 AM »
Great teaser shots. Looking forward for the trailer.
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Re: Divine Deception -- 10 Things You Didn't Know
« Reply #254 on: July 08, 2017, 11:58:21 AM »


Hey guys,

With Season 4 one its way, I thought I would give you a little insight into what goes on behind the scenes of Divine Deception. If you have any questions, suggestions or even just want to say hi, leave a comment down below. I always love hearing what you all have to say. Here we go!


1. DIVINE DECEPTION WAS ORIGINALLY A MISTAKE

So let's start this off with one of the first decisions that was made for this sims series. I was playing one day and decided to make a sim. Nothing special, just a normal day. CAS, move in, motherlode--Don't look at me like that--and began playing. I should note that when I get bored in the sims, and with the third installment with the open world like mechanics, I start experimenting with the mechanics which usually ends up with the townies being heckled. Cooking in an enemy's house and being asked to leave before I can take the food out of the oven, building a room around one of the family's friends and seeing how long they can survive (see The Man Under My Bed), etc. Divine Deception's was my main sim going over to the Alto's and seeing how far in a romantic relationship I could get her before Vita got mad. Shocker: Nick is surprisingly easy and Vita holds a grudge. After five hours (sim time) Vita had been kicked out and my main sim pregnant. My sim worked fast and as if out of nowhere Divine Deception started to form. Being a big fan of ABC's Revenge, I start to gather inspiration and started the first steps of this new story.


2. DIVINE DECEPTION WAS ORIGINALLY ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE A SINGLE SEASON STORY

That's right! Divine Deception was never supposed to go farther than Sadie being sent to prison and Vita being left with nothing but her own arms to keep her warm on a snowy, winter night. I had everything all wrapped up. Nick was taken out, Sadie was taken to jail thanks to Dexter the Bear and left to live with her destructive choices. Everything had been nicely wrapped up in my mind until I let my Alto family play on by itself. While I played a different family, Sadie moved out of the Alto household, which left Vita with Delilah. As I went back to play as Sadie and tried to converse with Delilah, the game wouldn't allow Sadie into the manor because Vita and Sadie were enemies. With some brainstorming of ideas, this led to the creation of season 2.


3. A REDHEAD NAMED ALLYSON

I said previously that I created my main sim before the story of Divine Deception was even in its early stages. Sadie wasn't originally my main character. My main character was a redhead named Allyson--a party animal who was always flirting with anybody with a thick wallet. She was such a mooch. There was always something off about her. The way her nose turned down every time she spoke and the way she always had a buzzed look on her face. She was not the woman I wanted the destroyer to be. I wanted someone who was pretty when all dolled up but at the same time could be bland and blend in with most of the other sims. So Sadie Lawrence was created. However, if you look closely you may notice Allyson turned out to be a different character in Divine Deception.


4. THOSE SILLY SPELLING MISTAKES!!!

Yes, I know! I can see them too. I cringe inwardly every time I give my chapter a reread the next day after I post it. Here's the thing: I don't edit. All right, I said it. :o And that's not all. I write everything for one chapter usually in an hour and a half. Usually I write on the one night I have off and I am up until close to midnight glancing over it, and I still miss the most obvious of mistakes. I am sorry, I really am. :-[ I just get so excited to give people the next piece of the story that I toss my hands in the air like I just don't care. If this was one of my novels, what you see is like the first draft I write. I write, I skim, I post! It's a night, y'all! ;)   


5. PICTURES FIRST, WORDS LATER

Do you remember Coffin Nail, the fourth episode in the first season? Did you know that those were the first photos taken of Divine Deception when I didn't know where exactly I should start? Yup, that's exactly it. Once I got Sadie all ready and moved her in with Gobias--and motherlode, motherlode, motherlode--I had no clue what to do first. Do you do that with your sim stories? You have this idea and then don't know where to start? So I sent her jogging. Being fall, it was nice just to take some pictures. As I had stated back when Divine Deception began, I had just installed Seasons and just seeing the differences in the town was enough to keep me busy. Anyway, Sadie ended up at the criminal warehouse and one thing led to another and I have twenty pictures begging for descriptions. This is how most episodes go. I will let my sims go off and do their own things, takes some pictures and build the story for that episode around that. While I do have small preparations and plans for each season, very rarely do I set everything up except for major plot points.


6. VIC, I SEE YOU FOR WHO YOU REALLY WERE

Vic, good man, loving Vic. Sadie's rock, the one thing she said was true in her life during season 1 and the man who asked for her hand in season 3. But would you look at him the same had you known the original plans for him in season 2? I knew a few things that I wanted to happen in the second season once the first season ended.

1. The season would be about bringing Deli and Sadie back together
2. Deli was going to go through a depression-like state and hook up with a bad crowd
3. Deli would be pregnant by the end of the season
4. I wanted to bring back some of the characters from the first season, especially Vic

I'm sure you can put two and two together and this possibility, while I knew it would be shocking and catch people off guard, it just left a bitter taste in my mouth. Deli being taken advantage of during such a difficult time in her life just seemed like too much. And for it to be Vic of all people...  :-\ So I brought in Nathan and found a way to make it more manageable. This way Deli still gets hooked up with a bad crowd aka the Yuri situation, yet this time Deli doesn't have to deal with more hatred and violence(which would probably send her into crazy land). Instead she gets some happiness with Nathan.


7. SPEAKING OF HAPPY ENDINGS...

I revealed back when this story first started that I used Nraas Story progression. This mod has made some many changes to the overall story. From little things like friends coming home after school and work to things I never expected such as Vita Alto becoming pregnant. Curve balls like this took Sadie's character from being a wannabe destroyer to something revolting. Because of SP's push to make Vita pregnant, it opened up the opportunity for Sadie to take Vita's child away from her, a huge step in her mission.

But there were other things that didn't make it into the story. While filming in Nathan's family, I had placed Vic and Sadie in their own household until I needed them. All was fine until SP decided Sadie and Vic weren't a good match. Sadie cheated on him with Henry McGlum, whom she later moved in and had a daughter with. Nathan's brother Jim had also fallen victim to SP's ways with his love affair with Hunter Cottoneye. It wasn't until I was filming the season 2 finale (only Nathan, Deli, Sadie and Peters in a household) that I learned that Jim and Hunter had moved in together, woohooed (thanks Woohooer for that notification) and were adopting. I couldn't help but feel as if this was my sims version of Modern Family's Cam and Mitch ;D


8. DANCE DANCE, BABY

Writing first person can be somewhat difficult sometimes. Not only am I the voice for the reader to hear, I am the character's voice and I have to become them. Some are easier than others. Sadie was simple. The moment I began writing as her there was this simplicity, especially in season 1, where whatever she was thinking easily came out on paper. But it wasn't until I had to write as Deli that I began to struggle. Sadie was strong and independent, a woman able to keep her emotions in check for the most part. But Deli was a seventeen year old girl that I wanted portrayed as a bit of a valley girl who transformed into somebody completely different. Writing as a valley girl doesn't come naturally to me. So for times like these I like to use music.

For Deli's character I used the album Electra Heart by Marina and the Diamonds for inspiration. The album represents female archetypes in popular American culture such as the house wife, beauty queen and the idle teen. Sadie's character in the first season was inspired by the songs Homewrecker and How to be a Heart Breaker, while songs like Long & Lost and What Kind Of Man by Florence and the Machine were used for the plot of season 2.

In the third season, Deli's character and story were inspired by Lady Gaga's Joanne. Songs like Diamond Heart and Sinner's Prayer that talk about not being perfect but being being the best one can be worked well in representing the person Deli wanted to become. She had flaws, she'd made poor decisions, yet she's far from giving up.


9. THE FUTURE OF DELILAH ALTO

Now some little tidbits of what's to come. In the first season we were placed right in the middle of the life of a destroyer. We watched Sadie fight her own conscience to fulfill a mission she was uneasy about from the start. The second season we witnessed what happened after a completed mission and how one can bounce back from being betrayed. And the third season went through the footwork of how one becomes a destroyer in the first place. Season 4 takes us back to the beginning with Delilah being the destroyer and how she's going to handle her own mission at hand. Will she become her mother and be forced to kill in order to survive? Or will she stop herself before she hits rock bottom? Sadie Lawrence destroyed herself the moment she set her sights on Vita Alto. Who's to say the same won't happen to Deli? She's just been a part of Daniel's sick game at the end of season 3, she knows Paragon is still active and she has a family she wants to protect. A mother's love is one of the strongest bonds one can have. Just look at how far Sadie went to get Deli back on her side. I said this during the first season and I am going to say it again: On the path of revenge, dig two graves. One for your enemy and one for yourself.


10. WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT SEASON FOUR

I have only revealed a few things regarding the fourth season and here they are with more details. First, season 4 is Divine Deception's final season. In the promo posted at the end of May showed Delilah in a destroyed wedding dress stating that season 4 was the final season. But what you didn't know was that season 4 will be the longest season out of the whole series. Season 1 had 15 episodes, season 2 16 and season 3 had 14. Season 4 will have 24 episodes. I was brainstorming ideas for the possibility of a fifth season and came to the decision that I'd be scraping the last bits from a barrel. It wouldn't be worth it. So, instead the final season will have ten more episodes to expand the storyline and wrap everything up. Delilah will be going to new towns. In one of the promo photos Bridgeport was shown. Appaloosa Plains, Dragon Valley and Isla Paradiso will also appear.

I hope this has been insightful for you. I know I enjoy reading and hearing about what goes on behind the scenes so to speak. As I said earlier, I love to hear what you as the readers think. If you have any questions or just want to say something, please comment down below. Feedback is always welcome. Season 4 is just around the corner and the trailer will be up soon!

Look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Offline chetanhaobijam

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Re: Divine Deception -- 10 Things You Didn't Know
« Reply #255 on: July 09, 2017, 12:01:18 PM »
Great knowing all the facts behind Divine Deception. Waiting for next update.
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Re: Divine Deception -- 10 Things You Didn't Know
« Reply #256 on: July 16, 2017, 09:06:13 PM »
It will be sooner than you think  ;)



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Re: Divine Deception -- Season 4 Promo
« Reply #257 on: July 28, 2017, 11:44:11 PM »
Divine Deception returns August 5th 2017
Slideshow of promo with music found HERE

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Eighteen years ago my mother travelled to Sunset Valley with a plan and an objective.

She destroyed a marriage, left an empire in ruins and a family broken beyond repair.

She taught me the best way to protect those that mean the world to me is to wear a mask.

But the thing with masks is their ability to do more than protect...


Masks are used for secrecy, insincerity and deception. We hide behind them to comfort ourselves from pain, and have the ability to repel the truth when the stakes are high enough.


I find myself torn between two masks: the one that shows me mercy at the cost of lies and the other that destroys everything I once was with the truth.

Yet the part that hits the hardest is the fact that when I have the courage to strip myself of the mask, I come to realize...

I never stood a chance.

I am Delilah Lawrence and this is the end of my story.


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Re: Divine Deception -- Season 4 Promo --- Returns 05/08/17
« Reply #258 on: August 01, 2017, 05:04:09 AM »
Wow. Terrific Promo. Love it. Looking forward for the season to start.
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Re: Divine Deception -- Season 4 Promo --- Returns 05/08/17
« Reply #259 on: August 04, 2017, 10:24:32 PM »
Great to hear! Let it begin  :)

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E01: The Grind
« Reply #260 on: August 04, 2017, 10:52:55 PM »
Divine Deception
"The Grind"


I stare down at my bare feet, a knife in my one hand and my other holds the door handle. I can feel the cold marble floor beneath me, my reflection looking back up into my eyes. Grime is smeared across my neck and there is a smell in the air. I spin the knife. First the blade straight ahead then so it is along my forearm. Back, forth. Back, forth. Denouement. This is where it all ends. But, sometimes, to understand the present, one must go back to the past. One year, three hundred and sixty five days, when it all began. To the path that led me to this very spot. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and open the door...

The door closes behind me with a light thunk and I look up. Through the limited working floodlights in the parking lot, I gaze over the neon lights up ahead. Pinks, blues, greens. Each of them flash in rhythm to the pounding beats inside. The Grind they call it, a warehouse that has seen better days, though that's not to say it hasn't seen worse. Clouds of cigarette smoke puff into the air near the entrance while drunken college kids spew profanity at one another in hardly comprehensible slurs. Months ago this would have intimidated me—a girl embarking on this path for the first time. But now it doesn't bother me in the slightest. My name is Delilah Lawrence and I have encountered worst things than a wall of boozy imbeciles. I walk through them without giving anybody a second glance and step inside.

My story began some time ago when a horrible organization hired my mother to destroy a family. They call themselves Paragon. They targeted my family, they followed me to the ends of the earth and killed my mother. To say that I am upset with this organization is more than an understatement. I despise them, I don't think I've ever hated anything more and it's the only emotion that continues to propel me forward. My energy drops, my head will throb, but I can always depend on my anger rekindling, burning hotter than anything I could ever imagine.

My main goal is rather a simple one. Find my way into Paragon and ruin everything from the inside out. It sounds easy, and to be completely honest, I am sure once I can gather some stable footing on this assignment, it won't be much harder than shooting fish in a barrel. However, gaining reliable Intel, the right people on my team and creating the right plan, that's what is going to cost me everything I have. It's the reason why I am doing most of the work myself. That's not why I am here, though.

He is. I spot him almost immediately the moment I walk inside. Patched jeans, torn shoes and a shirt he must have found at the local thrift shop. My sources told me he'd be trying to blend in with a crowd, though it seems to me that his attempt is bordering desperation. His name is James Whitman, but he goes by 4-Gig on campus. Cringy, I know. You'd think being a tech-savvy, computer whiz he would have been able to come up with something a bit more original, yet here we are. That's not all. He worked for Paragon years ago and excelled the corporate ladder with ease. True, he does look younger than I would think an employee for a destruction organization would be, and for sure he is, yet his acute intellect and high IQ propelled him through systems galore. By the time he turn thirteen he'd already graduated high school with top of the line marks, been invested in his college years and been offered a very generous position at the one and only Paragon.

I walk over to the bar and grab a drink while I keep my eye on him. He's spotted a girl across the way. She's alone, she's cute, she's very much my ticket into Whitman's back pocket. Her name's Connie. She and I met back during our destroyer days, which hasn't been that long ago, and when I called her and explained what I needed to do for my family's name, she said that she had all the equipment that we'd need and felt a special urge to help. That's not saying much. She'd been close to our master, an extraordinary man with a short temper. He'd been like a father to her over the many years they'd worked together. Unfortunately, he'd met his death by the very people I am searching to destroy.

Connie curls her hair behind her ear, giggling as Whitman says some stupidly off-putting one liners. I know what it looks like and, no, I am not here to ruin this man. While just looking at him makes my insides burn with many different emotions like distaste, apathy and even a bit of envy for doing everything he has in the little time he's been on this earth. Yet, if there's anything I learned from my upbringing it's that I can't hold my dislike for an organization over everybody's head that they came in contact with. And I shouldn't. This man could be the person I've been looking for for some time. The man to hold the back door open a crack so that I can slip in.

Connie looks up from her shoes and our eyes connect. There's a moment, a brief one where we are able to read one another. I told her what we needed to do last night. Make Whitman feel special, amazing. I've been observing Whitman for weeks now. His schedule, his habits, the way he brushes his teeth at night, flosses and then brushes them again. While much I've found excruciatingly useless, when Whitman is at the club, women keep their distance. For Connie to even consider making a move on him should send him spinning in disbelief to some degree, allowing for her departure to knock him right off his feet.

I nod at her and she knows what to do. They laugh for a few minutes longer. He tries to get her to dance and when she tells him that his one liners are becoming too much and leaves, I witness his embarrassment and discomfort come to his features. That's my cue. I toss back what's left of my drink and climb the counter next to the bar. In the corner of my eye I can already see Whitman approaching, readying himself to drown his shame with a strong drink of his own. I dance. He orders. It's not long until I've caught his eye. I've never been the best of dancers I'll admit, though when I was younger, Vita had pushed me into gymnastics. I ended up doing really well with the floor routines and the balance beam, hiding all of my insecurities inside a skin-tight leotard. I zone in on those times as I spin around, the counter slick with tipped drinks. I give Whitman a wink right as the song is coming to an end and I jump to the floor.

"Looking at something?" I say over my shoulder. From the awkward look on his face, I've humiliated him even more. He takes another swig from his drink and that's when I grab his hand. "I said, dance with me." Whitman's expression clouds with confusion and surprise. He doesn't say anything, yet he allows me to pull him back to the dance floor and put my arms around him.

The lights shoot around us while we move back and forth. Step here, another there. It takes a few quick glances down at our feet to make sure my toes aren't crushed from time to time. Whitman makes small talk, or tries to as I nuzzle into his neck. I inhale his aftershave, a strong, spicy scent, and a little bit of sweat.

"I'm 4-Gig—" Whitman says, and I place a finger on his lips as he's about to shoot off another one of his brilliant one liners.

"Why don't we get to know one another somewhere a little more private, hmm?" I whisper in his ear. He's stiffened in my arms, he's stopped moving, so I take his hand and lead him outside. He doesn't object. Not when I walk him through the group of college kids out the front. Not when I lure him to the car. Not even when I hold the door open for him on the passenger side and close it once he's settled. Ugh, I can be such the gentleman at times. I start the car up and we're off.

It's an uneventful ride from the club to my place. Once I park and tell him that we're here, it's as if a shock has brought him back to life and he's opening the door for himself and following me inside. Though still stiff, at least he's moving. In the elevator he stands on one side while I stand on the other. I lean back against the wall, playing with my hair and stare. Whitman struggles to hold my gaze, constantly checking to see what floor we're on. I can't figure out if it's because he's on to me and expects the worst or if he doesn't do this kind of thing often with another person. It could be my straight optimism, but I can't help but think—and hope—the latter.

We make it to my flat and I open the door for him.

The moment he steps in he must get a whiff that something's off. It could be how quick I close the door and latch it. I'll admit my quick reflexes were poorly hidden. But I can't help but feel that it's my other half sitting at the table that catches Whitman off guard.

"Him?" he says from across the room, looking Whitman up and down. I've seen Nathan do many things in the time I've known him, and scrutinizing a newcomer is nothing new. Heck, he did it with me when we first met.

I shoot him a dark look. "Be nice."

"What's going on?" Whitman panics. To think he looked stiff and tense before. It was nothing in comparison to what I am looking at now. "Who's he?"

"You don't worry about him," I say calmly. "I just sleep with him. This is about you."

Whitman throws his hands in the air. "I'm not into this. I should go—"

Before he can back all the way to the door, I'm in front of it blocking the way. I think he contemplates trying to take me on, eyes me up and down, maybe try and see where my weak points are, before he spins around and runs out the nearest door to the balcony. Nathan and I exchange glances and follow Whitman out at a walk. Now he's really cornered himself. Unless he's going to try and jump thirty floors to the ground, there is absolutely no way out.

I walk out first followed by Nathan.

Whitman runs from one end of the balcony to the other, looking for an emergency escape, a ladder, stairs, anything probably that can get him as far away from us as possible. I can't say I blame him. It's not like we've given him much reason to trust us. I sigh inwardly. If it's not one thing it's another.

"They always run for the balcony," Nathan mentions to me.

I take a seat on one of the lounge chairs and look over my shoulder at him. "They do not always run for the balcony, Nathan. Remember Agatha?" Agatha had been one of the first people we had grabbed for info. A short, mature Russian lady hidden behind coke-bottle glasses. She'd worked for Paragon during their earliest years and was able to give us small tidbits of the organization's past. "She ran for the bedroom."

Whitman's still running from end to end, whimpering. Nathan disregards him.

"Agatha ran for the bedroom before whipping down the stair banister and hightailing it out here."

I look at Nathan skeptically. While I don't remember her being able to make it to the balcony, I wouldn't put it past her. Even with age working against her she could still boot it around. "I could have sworn we got her to listen to us before she made it out here."

Nathan shakes his head. "No, she got out here too. They always do—"

"Who the hell are you people?!!"

Both Nathan and I turn to look at Whitman at once who raises his hands and takes a step back as if scared he's kicked a nest of some sort.

"Do you want money? I can give you money," Whitman says with a rise of hysteria. He flips open his wallet and tosses bills in our direction and then throws the wallet itself at our feet. "Here, take it all!"

"We don't want your money," I tell him.

"What? Why? Why not? You must want something!"

"We do, but you wanted something first. You wanted to know who we are. I'm Delilah Lawrence." I register a flicker of recognition in Whitman's eyes. "Daughter of Sadie Lawrence."

"Son of a..." He waves his hands and backs away from me towards the railing of the balcony. "No, no, no, no. I am not getting involved in this. This can't be happening. I knew you looked familiar. Dammit, Whitman, why did you fall for it again? Why, why, why?"

"Again?" I repeat.

"I know who you are, what you've been up to. It's all everybody at Paragon is talking about. The child of Nick Alto and Sadie Lawrence. Ha!" I'm about to say something when he starts up again. "But you're supposed to be off the radar so to speak. Paragon hasn't been able to find you in so long, since the Daniel situation. At least that's what I hear. I'm not really kept in the loop since I've been more freelance lately."

"You still work for Paragon, though, right?" I ask.

"I go in when I am asked, if that's what you're wondering. It looks like I'll have something to tell them next time I'm called."

"You won't," I say, calling his bluff.

"You're awfully confident. What makes you so sure I won't blab this to the higher ups? Unless, of course, you're thinking about killing me." It's as if the thought sets off a spark all at once and he's panicking again, pacing back and forth, mumbling about how he's much too young to die.

I ignore this and answer his question. "Because my mother spoke rather fondly of you when she was still alive. You helped her bug Alto Manor. You were the hands behind everything during that part in her life. You were one of the few people who kept her feeling during her destructions. Somebody so close to her..."

"Sadie was a good woman." He turns away and looks out across the city. "This is madness. Even if I wanted to help you, I couldn't. I won't."

"I wouldn't expect you to do it for me. I have just kidnapped you and locked you up on the top floor of an apartment structure. But this isn't about me. This is about taking out a bad situation. What was it that my mother said? 'For the truly wronged, there is no other option—"

"—to clean up such a mess,'" Whitman recites.

"Paragon is a bad mess," I insist, "so if you're not going to do it for me, do it for my mother. She lost so much during that mission Paragon partnered you on. Because of the organization you worked for, she is dead. She is dead because she tried to protect me and stand up against them." I pause for a moment to let my words sink in. "I am going to do this with or without your help. I am going to destroy Paragon. How it gets done and if... It all comes down to your help."

Whitman wipes at his running nose and takes a seat on the end of a lounge. "I don't know..."

"I can't force you. I won't force you. But, please, don't let my mother have died in vain."

Whitman slumps down and lets his head drop into his hands. While I know there is a possibility that my story may have been convincing, it's not why I watch his body slowly deflate like a balloon. It's because I've stuck him in between a rock and a hard place. If he goes back to Paragon and tells them what he's encountered, there will always be that concern from the leaders above him questioning if he is working with me secretly or not. Whether he chooses to or not, he'll always be looked at as if he had. And who knows what they'll do to him after realizing this?

As I observe him from behind, I bite my lip. It was never my intention to destroy this man. He was never a target to ruin, yet here he is, dragged into this war between me and Paragon. It doesn't matter what he chooses to do, one way or another, his connection with Paragon has been tainted by my destructive hands.

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Re: Divine Deception -- Season 4 Premiere: The Grind
« Reply #261 on: August 09, 2017, 06:21:06 AM »
Great start. Hoping Whitman understands them and helps in their mission. Looking forward for next update.
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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E02: Guilty Conscience
« Reply #262 on: August 13, 2017, 08:28:50 PM »
Divine Deception
"Guilty Conscience"


The mindset of a destroyer is a simple one: we are there to balance life's scale. For every action an equal and opposite action is sparked. But in the end, always the guilty will fall. Like dominoes, one chain reaction that hits another until all that's left is one powerful affliction. To turn your back on it gives guilt the ability to sneak up on you while running away from it forces it into a game of cat and mouse. So sometimes one needs to embrace their guilt, feeding off it until all that's left is the ability to let go.

"Are you sure we should trust Whitman?" Nathan asks from beside me. His soft voice pulls me from my thoughts and I turn to look at him. "I mean, he's got connections with Paragon, sure, but what's to stop him from finding a way to burn us when we're not looking?"

I look down at my hands. He's got a right to be concerned. It wasn't like Whitman had immediately said yes last night when I pitched my idea of taking down Paragon for my mother's sake. And it's not just that. I know that it's the fact that these captures haven't gone completely to plan since we started them how many months ago. We have captured many worthwhile people and been given their stamp of approval to say the least. However, we have hit snags from time to time too. We've just been lucky with those ones. He must be waiting for the penny to drop as my mother would say. When things go a bit haywire. Luck can't live forever.

"You said that you'd be here for me through the thick and thin, Nathan," I say to him. "Has something changed?"

"No, of course not. You know I'd follow you to the ends of the earth. I'm just worried that one of these captures is going to lead us down a road we don't want to go down."

"I understand. I just don't see this happening right now. As timid as Whitman might have been last night, he didn't sneak out and hightail it back to Paragon. That's got to say something."

"Hmm, I guess you're right."

I hear Whitman's footsteps up above in the bedroom, to the bathroom and back. I hope my optimism in Whitman doesn't backfire. While I didn't get a direct yes or no when I asked him to join us, he didn't leave either when I offered it. In fact, he stayed and asked about my mother. How she'd been over the last few months before her death and if she'd ever found happiness. Whitman told me what I had already gathered, that being a destroyer was a sure way to ruin oneself to a point where a life of happiness could never be achieved. But to be honest, I think my mother had been able to conjure a small piece before she met her end. She'd reunited with Vic, got engaged, returned to a life of normality. If only the small tidbits gathered into something bigger before Paragon stepped in again.

Whitman makes his way down the stairs and I stand, walking around the table to the living room where I motion for him to take a seat. Nathan follows and takes a seat next to me on the sofa.

"How are you feeling? Did you sleep well?" I ask him.

He nods slightly. "I guess so. That cocktail did absolutely nothing for me, though."

Knowing that he would have a difficult time sleeping and dealing with everything, I created the same concoction that my mother gave me when I ended up on her doorstep so long ago. It was a serum that she'd learned from Master Lee to take away stress and anxiety. It doesn't take long to make and after seeing how quickly my captures stress out, I always make sure I have the ingredients in the house.

"Well, as long as you were able to sleep."

He waves away my words. "Why don't we just cut to the chase, shall we? You don't care about my well being—"

"I do, actually."

"But you care about my answer more." He's got me there, but I neither deny nor confirm this. "Sleep was out of the question last night and when insomnia hits me hard I find it best to read." He gives me a look. "Your books are terrible. You don't live here, do you?"

I squint at him. "Why would you think that?"

"Coffee books, that's all you have here. Books that are strictly for decoration, placed in convenient places like on coffee tables, picture books on bookcases, some even in the loo. There's nothing real here. Not a picture of you two together or your family. You two have a son, right?"

The fact that he knows so much about my family makes my insides twist in horrible directions. That's not all. What also bothers me is that he's right, I don't live here. This is just a flat that I use to bring my targets to so that I can get them on my side.

Whitman takes in my expression that I find difficult to fake. I can't say he hasn't caught me off guard. "But there's one thing I found last night that I don't think I was supposed to. Hidden behind the bed, behind the headboard to be precise. A photo album with everybody you've ever loved."

I bite my cheek. What I said about my mother last night is true. Whitman was the only person that kept her feeling when she destroyed the families on her target list. Losing feeling and emotions is one of the most difficult things my mother once said. When destruction turns into a series of motions one just goes through. I don't want to turn into that and the photo album is one of the things that keeps my grounded. When I have to stay the night in this flat, when Nathan can't be here with me, it's nice to be reminded of why I am doing all this. It's nice to still feel something.

"It reminded me of why your mother and I decided to join this organization in the first place. When we thought we were doing more than destroying. When we thought we were balancing out the scales of life." Whitman pauses and contemplates his words. "I loved your mother. She was a good woman caught in a terrible position, led down a path nobody should ever have to travel... That's why I have decided to help you."

I don't let my joy show on my face right away. I'm waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me or be told that this whole conversation's turned out to be some sick joke of his that is far from funny. But it never comes. He just sits there, straight faced, waiting for my reply. Finally, I say, "You will?"

"Your mother told me years and years ago, when I was still in my early days, that she never believed she was a good person doing what she was asked to do. All she believed was that she was the middle person who righted wrongs. And now I see that I am meant to be the same person."

We speak for hours afterwards, discussing what we think we should do and how we should do it. Whitman hacks into Paragon's servers and lets me browse. Everything is on them from personal emails sent from person to person to all employee profiles. Whitman motions to one for a man named Sean Barread.

"If this is what you guys really want to do then I suggest going for him. I warn you that Sean is a bit of a pig, like the arrogant jocks in high school, treats women like objects. You know, that kind of thing. But, he knows Paragon like the back of his own hand. There are four tiers in Paragon. You've got the slave rats at the bottom who do the paper work, the scheduling, everything the higher ups don't want to do. Above them are the managers and technical engineers, like myself, who make sure everything runs and works. Above us are those a part of Outlook—"

"They work for Microsoft?" Nathan butts in.

"No, they are the group that looks over the organization as a whole and makes the big decisions. I've only met them a small handful of times, but I know Sean is the middle man between them and those below. Get Sean on your side and you'll be flying."

"I thought you said there were four tiers," I remind Whitman.

"There are, above them are the big guys. The head honchos. The big cheese."

"There are a lot of them?"

Whitman shrugs. "I have no clue. I've never spoken to the top. There could be one. There could be one million."

"Let's hope for the former," I say. "Heck, maybe there's nobody above this Outlook and once they are taken care of there is nothing else to do other than go down."

"Wishful thinking," Nathan says with a smirk.

Don't I know it.

"Sean frequents Eugi's during the week," Whitman informs me.

"On 27th Street?" I see Whitman nod to me and I nod back. "I better get ready then."

I've been to Eugi's a handful of times. It's always been a busy joint, though tonight has proved to be much busier than usual. They have a live band, and from the sound of it, they're actually pretty good. With a mix of folk and pop, they seem to have almost everybody on their feet. I take a seat at the bar and order a drink while I wait for Sean to arrive.

It's almost as if he's heard my thoughts. He walks through the door not three minutes later. Greasy hair frames his face and the strong scent of cheap dollar cologne meets my nostrils. Whitman told me before I left that Sean lathered up in the stuff if he missed a day or two of showering. Today must be my lucky day.

I watch as Sean orders a drink and heads over to a table in front of the stage. I follow suit a few minutes later.

The first thing that comes out of my mouth is how the band stinks. From what Whitman said, Sean is as Type-A as it gets. Heavy metal, drinking hard liquor, drowning in his own misogyny perhaps? I honestly couldn't say, though from my comment, he seems to have taken it with a liking.

He lifts his glass. "Drink to that."

We fall into small talk. From if he comes here often to how I don't see a ring on his finger. He plays it just like I think he will: Marriage isn't for him, it's for the weak, blah, blah, blah. But one thing does catch me off guard and it's that he mentions how he likes to keep his options open. It may sound pretty vague—and I really think it is—but there's something behind that wall that he won't let me see.

We talk for a little longer, grab another drink for the both of us and he starts questioning me, trying his moves. He calls me pretty. Supposedly, according to him, I have a rocking bod. He comes off as if he's not even trying, but I just go with it.

So when he asks me to dance, I don't hesitate for a second. He leads me to the dance floor with a strong hand holding mine. He whips me around into position. If I didn't work with the unexpected everyday and think quickly on my feet, it is very possible I may have hit the floor. I stay with him, though, as he pulls me around like some marionette, showcasing how desperate he is to lead, to stay the dominant one between the two of us.

As we're dancing, he's in my ear. His dirty jokes slowly morph into dirty talk.

"Are you always so forthright?" I ask as we sway side to side. I don't really know what else to say, and the moment I speak, I immediately hope he doesn't get offended and leave.

"I like what I like."

"And what else do you like? Is it always the domineering lead?"

He gives me a look and then grins. "No," he whispers again, his voice husky and his breath tickling the inside of my ear. "I don't mind letting others take control from time to time."

We dance for a little longer and I finally ask him back to my place. "I don't know if I believe somebody as big and strong as you can let somebody like little me take control. I would like to see this."

I allow him to drive us back. Nathan dropped me off so I don't have a car. Sean is a bit of a aggressive driver—Surprise!—yet we get to my flat safe and sound. I kiss him as we wait for the elevator. He tastes like alcohol. He grabs my sides as we stumble into the box and make our way up. Thankfully there is nobody in the lobby or in the elevator. At the top, we break away from one another and I open up the door, waving him on in. Nathan isn't waiting for us like he was with Whitman. I made sure of that before I left earlier today. With everything we knew about Sean, I knew coming in hard and aggressive wasn't going to get us anywhere. I need to work with his personality, his traits.

I walk him up to the bedroom and push him onto the bed. "Make yourself comfortable," I say and grab a small bag from the top of my dresser.

"That's a tiny, little bag," Sean comments.

"Tiny, little outfit." I wink at him and slip into the bathroom to get changed.

I return completely transformed. My dress has been changed into a fitted suit one would only find at a top-of-the-line lingerie store or possibly a costume shop. I look over at Sean. His eyes widen. Not in fear but surprise. It mellows out in a matter of seconds while he looks me up and down. He must be happy because he gestures for me to come closer. I pull out my braid and shake my hair out. I saw this once in the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith when she plays a Domme. I've never been in a position like this and that's why I try to recreate the scene here. Hopefully Sean isn't into shoot 'em up action films and won't catch on.

"You've been a bad boy, haven't you?" I say, putting a hand up to stop Sean from advancing. "Haven't you?" I insist.

He gives me a look and then decides to play along. "I think I have."

I lower myself to the floor and grab a whip from under my bed. As I straighten up, I point it at him. "You know what happens to bad boys?" I smack the end of the whip off the dresser side, sending a crack into the air. "They're punished." I watch as Sean licks his lips. "Undress."

He doesn't wait for any other order and goes about taking his clothes off. They pile on the floor and as he's going for his boxers, I stop him.

"No, leave them. Lie down."

Sean was right, he doesn't always have to be the one in charge. It shocks me how he goes with the flow so easily, taking my every order. He must be really into it it too because I know I sound like an idiot and nothing is natural by any means.

"You're a bad boy who needs to be punished, yes?" I say, running the end of my whip over his bare chest.

He breathes with effort, like he's anticipating the hit. "Yes," he answers me.

"Uhuh." I hit one of his pecs and listen to him groan. It's not of agony. More like an, "Ooooo."

"Punish me."

I hit him again.

"Ooooh."

From my angle I can see the enjoyment Sean is getting from this. He doesn't look at me. To do so would be provoking and showing aggression. So he looks at the ceiling, takes the next hit that he gets off on. I lower myself to my knees so that I am next to his ear. I place the whip so that it rests over his throat. I run my hand over his chest. I can feel the beat of his racing heart. I breathe into his ear and then I say, "You've been working with bad people, haven't you?"

Sean's face becomes screwy. It's clear that what I've said has come out of left field, yet he doesn't really know how to respond.

"Where are they, Sean?"

"How do you know my name?"

Dammit! I think, smacking myself inwardly for misstepping. "I..." 

"Who the hell are you?" he demands, trying to straighten himself. I press down on the whip against his neck to keep him down. This only makes him more angry. He pushes back against me, the whip digging into his Adam's apple, but it doesn't matter. He's fighting the pain just so that I'll let go.

Throwing his hands around, he catches me. His force too strong, I fall to the floor. Sean is free and the whip in my hand has been snapped in two. I toss it away and run after Sean, who's stormed down the stairs, through the living room and out the back door to the patio. He spins around at once—he knows I am right on his tail—and shuts the door behind him. He tries to hold it there so that he's blocked my path to him. I give it a good kick and it doesn't budge. Sean must know that his strength has and will always overpower me. However, when I grab my nearest fire extinguisher and am about to throw it through the glass, he backs off and hightails it across the balcony in search of an escape route.

I open the door and make my way out, spotting Sean running back and forth. I am taking aback to last night with Whitman doing the same thing while Nathan and I watched. Nathan was right, they do always head for the balcony. With the front door our captures know that they will waste time trying to unlock the door and wait for the elevator. Time, precious time being wasted. At least with the balcony there is some hope. I pity them for thinking this way. I also wish Nathan was here with me. I've always worked better with him at my side.

Taking a deep breath, I walk closer to Sean. He's bouncing off railing and railing, looking over for what I guess is the nearest escape pad. Everybody does the same thing. I try to follow the same procedure I have with my previous captures. "Sean, we can work together. My name is Delilah Lawrence. I need your help. Where are Paragon's top tiers?"

He's not listening. Running around in his underwear, he zooms from one end to the other, though, from close observation, he always keeps a good distance from me.

"What are the names of your leaders?" I persist. I take a few steps towards him and contract the space between us a good chunk. "Give me a name or where they are." I walk closer again. "Give me something—"

He spins around on me so quickly I think I may see insanity in his eyes. And he moves. Fast. I barely can comprehend it. He's coming straight for me, shoulder angled so that it can be used as a battering ram. I've backed up so that my back is up against the opposite railing. I can see a furry in his expression. This isn't some bluff. He's actually going to try and strike me into the air like some wild bull in Spain.

With adrenaline on my side, I spot my opening when he's mere two feet away from me and I dodge his attack, spinning him and giving him a good push with my own hands.

He twirls in an unbalanced motion, whimpering as he flips over the railing, hands out in front of him, trying to grasp anything. Railing, the lip of the balcony, anything!

I gasp, throwing my hands out to catch him. He's managed to catch the lip of the balcony and I am there to grab his hand. He looks up at me, fear—real fear—on his face, tears in his eyes. I can only wonder what I look like in return. Even if I am staring into Sean's face, all I can see is Daniel that night in the pool and how I let him drown. I don't intent on letting myself do the same thing to this man.

"Give me your other hand," I tell him, panic in my tone, hysteria on the rise. His hand is sweating like mad. Mine is too and I don't know how long I will be able to hold onto his one hand.

"Anna Lane, Danny Ferris," I hear him mumbling as he looks down at the ground so many floors below him.

"Don't look down, Sean. Give me your other hand."

"George Lappel," he continues, "Trisha Udenaff, Samantha Malonee, Jonathan Smith."

"What? What are you going on about?"

It looks like it takes all of his effort, but he looks up at me again. "Those are the names you wanted."

"No, forget about that. Give me your other hand!" His weight it overtaking mine and I don't know how much longer I can hold him.

"I'm done for anyway."

"No, give me your other hand!" I am yelling now and his hand is continuously slipping from my grasp.

And then it's gone.

Sean's hand slips from my grasp completely and I watch him fall through nothing but air. He doesn't scream. He doesn't cry out. He's just gone. I barely hear the thud as he hits the pavement below. But I still sit there, my hand stretched out, staring at the air in front of me because I don't know what else to do. Sean is gone. My capture is dead. The realization dulls every fiber in my body and everything turns into slow motion. I pull myself right side up and listen as men and women scream in terror and the once empty street down below begins to fill with horrified pedestrians.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E02: Guilty Conscience
« Reply #263 on: August 27, 2017, 05:14:33 PM »
Hey guys, sorry it is taking me so long for the next update. It is another long episode. I will have it up soon!

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E03: Collateral Damage
« Reply #264 on: September 03, 2017, 11:25:53 AM »
Divine Deception
"Collateral Damage"



((Because of a weapons mod and strong language, episode three can be found HERE. ))


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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E04: 2.0
« Reply #265 on: September 30, 2017, 09:14:13 PM »
Divine Deception
"2.0"


Most of my memories from my childhood are happy ones—late nights at the gymnasium practicing my handspring, staying up late watching my favourite movies with friends while Vita heckled us, saying that we needed to get to bed. The angriest of storms could darken our days, but they did nothing to hinder our nights. It was the certainty of that that kept my life on the rails. Yet now, with those happy memories seemingly only figments of my imagination, doubt has been given the ability to prey on my weaknesses. Am I doing this for the right reasons? Can I finish this personal mission before it takes everything that I have, something my mother never could?

"You get more beautiful with every day that goes by." Nathan puts his arms around my from behind, almost making me smear my lip gloss. I pull the small stick from my lips before I do and let myself melt into him. Last night, being in Outlook's presence when they were all taken out... I didn't think I would ever see Nathan again, let alone be in his arms. The warmth of his freshly-cleaned body, the rain forest mist soap he uses. I find it so easy to want to ignore the rest of the day and just spend it here, with him, with him and William.

Nathan kisses me on the side of my neck, then on the back of it. A chill lifts hairs where his lips touch before shooting down my spine. I giggle. I giggle like that little school girl I used to be back during those late nights with friends when we talked about boys.

"Hun, I've got to go," I tell him, looking at his reflection in the mirror. He doesn't respond. He doesn't even catch my gaze as he runs his hands along my shoulders and down my arms. I turn around to face him. "I mean it. I don't want to be late."

Glancing at the face of his watch he took off before his shower, he says, "You don't have to be in the city for another two hours." He doesn't miss a beat, still kissing me.

I smirk at my reflection. He's right. I do have quite a bit of time. Getting there should only take me forty-five minutes, if that. He kisses my ear. I love it when he does that. Before I know it, I am on our bed, kissing him back, counting down the minutes until I have to go. For good measure, I set an alarm on my phone just in case.

Fifteen minutes late. Between traffic and some parade blocking off how many roads on the east end of Bridgeport, I end up being late. Sometimes it's no use setting up a time to meet. I'm inevitably going to be late anyway. It's already half past noon when I make it to the doors of a very tall skyscraper. At least I've had some time to think about what I am about to get into.

Since I spoke with Jackie Collins last, I haven't gotten much information on her. I asked Whitman the moment I got home about her profile. He pulled it up. She's exactly what she said she was: a woman who went up against Paragon. From what Whitman found, she was added to Paragon's termination list the moment she went AWOL.

"The top tier want her very dead," Whitman told me last night. I asked him afterward about if he knew anything about her personally and he couldn't recall much of anything. He did say he remembered her working with my mother from time to time, though, which, to me, at least confirms her story a bit more. Gives me something to settle my mind even if only a little.

I follow Jackie's instructions. I take the elevator to the top floor after swiping a card she gave me last night. A bouncer waits for me the moment the doors open and leads me down a hallway. I can hear the bass of music, dance music to be precise, but the farther we go down the hall, the more it fades. When we get to a set of stairs, he tells me to take them up and that somebody will be waiting for me.

And there he is. Another bouncer, strikingly similar to the man I've just stepped away from, stands in front of a glass door that's sectioned off by velvet ropes. The bass from earlier has returned and I can see through the aquarium next to him inside. There's a private bar in the next room. It's nothing like the Grind. This is sophisticated, upper crust, and I'm sure only those with special power get inside this room. I spot Jackie taking a seat at the bar as a small tinge of giddiness bubbles inside of me. Today that is me.

I speak with the bouncer. He unclips the velvet ropes and walks me in.

"Ms. Collins?" the bouncer says, stopping next to Jackie. She looks over her shoulder, sees me and instantly a warm smiles forms on her brim lips.

"Delilah!" she says and gets to her feet. She raises a hand for me to take and shakes it. "You have no idea how happy I am you decided to see me today. What can I get you to drink?" She checks her watch. "Wine? Martini? Rebecca here makes a marvellous Sex on the Beach if you care for that sorta thing."

I hold up my hand. "I'm good, thanks."

"Well, suit yourself." Jackie gives Rebecca a nod and the woman behind the counter begins making Jackie a drink. I didn't get much of a chance to take in Jackie last night. Forgive me, but there was a bit much going on that looking over her appearance seemed to have been baking on the back burner then. But now, looking at her without guns glazing or Outlook members dropping like flies, I can see her. Her skin is like porcelain—pale to the point of being cold, and smooth. Crows feet crowd around the corners of her eyes as if she's squinted at far too many suns, and her nose, hooked like a beak, reminds me of that of a puffin or some other bird, especially as she nods to Rebecca again and thanks her for her drink.

Jackie leads me to one of the seating away from the bar so we can speak privately. As she does, I walk past an opening that looks down into the floor below. I now understand where I hear the music from. Downstairs in the dance club for the general public.
 
"I know you don't have much reason to trust me," she says once she's taken a seat. "It must be so hard, especially since I was once linked to the very organization that went after your mother."

"Partly," I tell her. I try to say it offhandedly, but it ends up coming off as a bit brutal. "But I've learned I shouldn't judge people for what they did but what they're doing."

"You sound like your mother." Jackie takes a sip of her drink. "Unfortunately, your mindset is much the opposite compared to Paragon. They were never as bad as they are now. At least, I never saw it that way. Perhaps I was blind to the nonsense, yet I always thought Paragon built the destroyer for the greater good, that they were important for the world and its existence." Jackie grunts, cursing the organization under her breath before she takes another swig. "That thought's been shot."

I smile at her cheerlessly, though I can't say I disagree with her previous thought. I was told the same thing by Master Lee, that we as destroyers were to aid in life's scale. Just the thought of Paragon's tale leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

"So what do we do about it?"

Considering the liquid in her glass, Jackie says, "We burn the place down."

My eyebrows raise. "You think that's possible?" I think about the time I ordered my mother a year ago to get me a spot inside the Nest, how I was going to destroy Paragon myself for what they did to Nathan. Now, after seeing what they can do, my optimism has dropped considerably. "Destroy them, just the two of us?"

"Anything is possible if you know how to play the game. All we have to do is gain access into the heart of the company. Once that's been accomplished, our main priority is tearing it up from the inside."

"All we have to do," I repeat under my breath with a hint of pity both for myself and this woman. Yes, in a perfect world breaking into the main stronghold would be so easy. "Yeah, when you figure that out, let me know." I am beginning to get to my feet when Jackie's hand stops me.

"Who's to say I haven't gotten there already?" She applies more pressure to her hand and I sit involuntarily. "There are only two things stopping me from ripping that place a new one. First is a man who goes by the name of 4-Gig. He's a computer whiz—used to work for Paragon, but he's been off the radar for a couple of days now. I can't seem to find him anywhere."

"That's because I have his whereabouts jammed."

"You have him?" Jackie asks. "Well, then that leaves only one thing in our way."

I lean forward, intrigued. "And what's that?"

"Have you heard of the model Matthew Hamming? He's the new up and coming. Been on television ads, magazine covers, you name it. Actually, it's rather sickening."

"I try to keep away from the media," I say quietly.

"You may want to start reading up on him then. He's just started acting recently and progressing rather fast if you ask me—"

My impatience gets the better of me. "What does he have to do with anything?"

"His family funds Paragon, his father mainly. He works as the organization's handler. He keeps tabs on what's going in and going out of the company, who's employed and who's been dismissed. I'm still not sure if the mother knows about it or not. She's too preoccupied on making this acting thing a big deal." Jackie waves her hand to push away the thoughts. "The point is that if we want to gain access into Paragon, getting close to them is vital. But we'll need you on board for that."

Jackie stares at me, and the pieces of the puzzle don't come together until they finally hit me like a snow plow. "You want me to do what my mother did?" The moment I see Jackie nod, I say, "No."

"It's the only way, Delilah--"

My guts twist as if being braided by tiny fingers. "I don't care, it's madness. Manipulate a whole family into believing there's something there that isn't, toying with everybody to hurt them, ultimately destroy them."

"We're not going in as destroyers, Delilah," Jackie says sternly, but I don't care. I've already gotten to my feet. "We just need to gain access to the heart, that's it. We are not doing what Paragon had your mother do to a family, do to your family. We are not destroying the mother, we are not killing the father. We are just gaining a gateway inside."

I stop at the opening that looks down into the club below. My body's broken out into a cold sweat and my arms are shaking. I grab a hold of the half wall to steady myself. Jackie makes her way to my side.

"I understand how difficult this must be for you, but it's the only way. If you want to avenge your mother, stop the men and woman inside Paragon from doing what they do, then we need to be what Paragon originally was. We need to do this for a greater good."

I bite my lip and don't say anything.

"This is a hard choice, I know, but think of it this way: You can either be one of them down there…" She points at the men and women dancing. "You can be oblivious to what's going on up here or you can be in control of everything that's happening in your proximity."

Her words aren't coming together exactly as they should yet still they make me nervous because Jackie's actually making sense. I take a deep breath. "I need to think about this."

"Take all the time you need."

I don't say another word and head for the door.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E04: 2.0
« Reply #266 on: October 02, 2017, 02:00:31 PM »
Sorry it took so long for the forth chapter. Would love to hear what people think!

Enjoy!

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E04: 2.0
« Reply #267 on: October 28, 2017, 02:35:02 PM »
Fifth episode is on its way. Should be up today or tomorrow.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E05: The First Step
« Reply #268 on: November 11, 2017, 10:47:49 AM »
Divine Deception
"The First Step"


The day started like it would when I was younger: the bright sun peeking through countless fluffy clouds, casting rays that stretched long beyond the eye could see. Women like me pushed strollers carrying their loved ones, some older, some younger. But it was the night that held my hopes, my dreams and any opportunities I may have been promised. For in the mail I had been sent two invitations to one of the hottest parties of the year. Where young chatter congregates near hot tubs and mini bars, and taking one's bikini top off gets an abundance of hollers.

"I don't know if I can do this," Connie tells me as she stares up ahead. In the distance I can see the yacht where the party is about to take off from. Men and women wait in line while a man with hella-tight hair (heard by one of the guests) checks a list on an ultra-expensive tablet.

I turn back to Connie. In her one hand is a cute little hand purse I lent her and in the other her invitation crinkles. "Connie," I say soothingly as I grab the invitation from her hand to stop her from destroying her only way onto the boat. "It's going to be fine. I just need you to be my quiet friend, that's it."

I want to add in just to be herself, but from how nervous she is, I can tell she's not going to take it well. I can't say I blame her. Connie hasn't been on a mission for a little while—not since we captured Whitman—and after telling her about my night with Sean, she seems to have lost her nerve a bit, as if she's just come to the realization that death can actually happen, even if we don't want it to. Even so, I know it's not that that bothers her the most. It's the fact that she hates water, can't swim, and the party will be taken out to sea.

"Take another one," I say. I pass her a pill that will settle her stomach. Then I take her by the hand, give her a reassuring squeeze and lead her down to the docks.

It's been a week since I saw Jackie and discussed her suggestions regarding what our plans should be for the coming weeks, months, whatever future we have together. I won't lie. My body went into a numbing shock the moment she offered her suggestion and it took a long time for me to shake it. Thirty-six hours to be precise, and that's a long time for a destroyer, especially when we are trained to think, act and ignore all in a matter of seconds. By the time I had left the bar, returned home and stewed over the suggestion to do the same thing my mother did—destroy for a greater good—I finally came to the realization that Jackie fell into my lap and maybe I shouldn't walk away from her so soon. I thought about all of the death I have been surrounded by since we captured Whitman, and maybe doing it her way might be better for the soul. I am not expected to kill... or destroy for that matter. I just have to get close to Matthew Hamming, aka the birthday boy.

His family's put on a good show. The moment Connie and I have handed in our invitations and been checked through security, I almost feel like royalty. Waiters in fancy tuxedos spin around the rooms handing out dips and keeshes and little chocolate truffles that melt the moment they touch your tongue. Waitresses offer champagne the moment we step into their line of sight and somebody is always around taking pictures and videos to upload to the party slideshow in the main room. And then there are all of the big names. Emmy Starr, Lola Belle, Reuben Littler, Tom Wordy, and those are just the ones I spot in my first five minutes. The one person I don't see, however, is Mr. Hamming.

"I'm going to head upstairs," I whisper to Connie and make for the stairs up.

I spot him almost immediately. He's at a built-in blackjack table with his buddies. They're a bunch of drunken debacles—a little harsh, but I can't stand the inebriated mind—slurring their words while they smack Matthew on the back and chug back another bottle of beer. Matthew doesn't seem to mind. He looks more focused on the game at mind. Calm, patient, keeps playing with a ring on his finger that he spins around and around. He looks different in person. I've only seen him through photographs online and in magazines. His hair is longer now, pulled back to the back of his head with little stragglers that frame the sides of his face.

Two seats open up and I saunter over. "Mind if we join in?"

None of Matthew's friends seem to mind except for what looks like his wing man. Scratch that. A bold set of Aviator sunglasses and a suit one can only wonder came out of the latest bargain bin at Macy's... Wing man? He seems more like a slimy used car salesman to me.

He gives me a nasty glare from behind his glasses. "Not much of a ladies' game, I'm afraid."

I lift my eyebrow. "Seems more like or less like an empty game if you ask me," I retort, glancing at the empty seats. Don't tell me you're scared that I girl might beat you at such a manly game of cards."

Matthew chortles. "Back off, Jay. Let's let them play."

"Let them play?" Jay's expression hardens. "C'mon, man, this is your night! Don't be fallin' for the legs and pretty faces so early. We got all night!"

"Legs and pretty faces?" The game begins. "I should feel so honoured."

"Ah, this one's got a sense of humour," Matthew says, punching Jay in the arm. He turns back to me. "I don't think we've met. I'm Matthew." He lends out his hand for me to shake. His modesty takes me back. For all that he does, through film and modelling, he still introduces himself as if I might not have seen him in anything he's done.

I take his hand. "Samantha."

"What are you drinking, Samantha?"

An hour later, I hold a martini glass in one hand and Jay's arrogance in the other. For how many games we've played, he's lost the majority of them. I hold back from rubbing it in his face, but Matthew isn't.

"Not a ladies' game, ha!" Matthew teases Jay with a shake of his own head. "This is what you get for trying to act like a big shot. Think you'd learn by now." Jay keeps his emotions in check. He laughs it off and jokes back, even tries a few lines on Connie to soften her up. She's been pretty quiet lately. I hope she's feeling okay. "Just like the time you thought that friend of yours would amount to any type of rider back in the day. What was his name again?"

My ears perk at the word rider. "Rider as in equestrian?"

But Jay speaks over me.

"Jeremy Biggs! I always thought Biggs was too much a name for him. Never thought he'd be it, but he's the biggest—"

"—rider in the world," I finish for him. "You knew Jeremy?"

"I have connections with a lot of big people," he says and it's as if a cloud of pride holds him tall in his chair. "I've known Jeremy since we were small."

"Craziness, because I know Jeremy."

"No!" Matthew says in surprise. "Small world. Well, we've always said the horse world is a small one."

"You ride too?" I've stopped acting and my real curiosity has taken its place.

"Jumper," Matthew tells me. "You?"

"I used to jump, but did mostly dressage. That's how I met Jeremy. We trained under the same coach." I lean back in my seat and think of the past: Vita packing my things for the weekend camp she set me up with. Overnight with horses and lessons on how to work around and on horses. It was such a long time ago. I can still remember Jeremy and I working on our jumping, going over small cross rails and going on hacks in the forest. And now he's some superstar riding horses for a living, and I'm here halfway across the world with a model/actor and their friend talking about their personal friendship with the man. Madness!

"I shouldn't act so surprised about what he's amounted to," Jay slips back into the conversation, his voice much louder now as if to make sure we can all hear him. "He's always had the best of everything. Money, training, horses. Heck, with that enormous arena we used to ride inside as kids, everybody knew he was going to be something spectacular."

I'm still enthralled with this finding when Jay's words slowly bring me to a halt. "Money, training and horses?"

Jay gives me a look. "Don't tell anyone, but it's pretty obvious he was born into greatness when his mother's legs opened," he scoffs.

I return his look. "When did you say you met him?" I ask Jay.

"I dunno'. When we were kids." He pauses and thinks about it. "Ten years ago, probably."

I nod. "So when Facebook started becoming popular?"

"Yeah, I guess. Never got into social media, honestly."

"Most kids do, though." I grab my phone and log into the account I haven't used for ages. "I did, and Jeremy and I took my very first picture together." I scroll down, click on the photo and observe the dimly lit arena where two children are but two shadowy figures. Still, even with the limited light, anybody can see the torn riding pants the helmet that fits poorly. I turn to show the others. "Tell me, Jay, does that look like a boy that came from a world of riches? Jeremy has worked his butt off to get where he is now, not because of money. His parents struggled to makes ends meet and held this camp to make some extra cash."

"What are you saying? That I am lying?"

I breathe heavier than I usually do as tension gathers in my arms and my grip of my phone. "I'm just saying the last time I checked, what you're saying contradicts everything I lived through with Jeremy. And how well do you really know him, Jay, if at all?"

Jay's eyes flash in repulsion. "Your point?"

"If you knew Jeremy so well, wouldn't you have known that?" I pause. "For somebody who has a connection with big people and has known Jeremy since you were small, I would have expected you'd actually know what you're talking about. Either you're confused or you are extremely bad at keeping your stories straight."

Jay doesn't know where to look. He holds me in his unwavering stare for quite some time, but it's when Matthew turns toward him that he crumbles. After a quick sob into his hands, he clears his throat, gets up from his seat and walks away. A moment later, Matthew follows him out of sight.

"You can be really harsh sometimes," Connie mumbles from my side.

I don't turn to look at her. My gaze is still on the very last spot I saw Matthew. "He'll get over it. Besides, we're always righting wrongs. That's what we've signed up to do. Just sometimes they're smaller than others."

I leave things alone for half an hour and realize Matthew isn't returning. I go searching for him and find him on a different balcony. He's sitting next to a fire pit.

I clear my throat and he sees me and gets to his feet. Not to run--it's the first thing I think when he stands--but to be polite.

"Is Jay out here?"

"No."

"I'm just looking to apologize to him... and you. I can be a little forward sometimes, more than people like and it can get me into trouble from time to time."

Matthew doesn't seem to mind. "Eh, I wouldn't get too bent out of shape. Jay's Jay. Everybody knows what he's all about." He shrugs and motions for me to sit.

"Still, I shouldn't have taken it to such a drastic level." I take a seat. "I just like to put up a wall. Always feel like people want to take advantage of me, pretend to like me because of who I am and what I have... Do you ever feel like that?"

"All the time. You'd think being in Bridgeport with countless other celebrities would make it easier. It doesn't. There are just more leeches to deal with." He nods his head and I know who he's referencing: Jay.

"I've got to admit, it's nice to see somebody take him down a peg."

We share a moment, looking into each other's eyes and it's almost instantly broken when I hear the sound of footsteps closing in on us.

"Happy birthday, darling," a husky voice comes from behind me. Before I can look up, my nostrils are hit with a strong scent of pomegranate and vanilla.

I turn and look up at the source.

Mrs. Hamming's photos spin around in my mind. As much as I've seen Matthew in the media, Mrs. Matthew has been there just as much, maybe even more. Her hair is a sandy blond, cut in layers, reaching just above her shoulders while wispy ends seemingly float at the sides of her face. Her bone structure looks like that of a model. Surely in her younger years she looked breathtaking with her high cheekbones and perfectly shaped nose. Her dark eyes smolder as she catches sight of me. She doesn't know me from a hole in the wall, but from the way she looks at me, I can only wonder what horrible things she is thinking. Who am I, where did I come from and why the heck am I sitting here with her son? Jackie told me how protective she is of him when we spoke last. She also told me how much of a hard old bat she was when seeing her in person. Stern to the fullest and even if she says something kind, there's always something behind it.

Before Mrs. Matthews can say anything, I take it upon myself to speak.

"Thank you for a beautiful evening, Mrs. Hamming. It was lovely being able to be a part of this."

Mrs. Hamming looks me up and down as if trying to decipher my every flaw. She smirks and not bothering to look me in the eye, says, "Well, sometimes I struggle to understand how the invitations arrive in certain places." She raises her eyebrows and gives me a slight shake of the head. "Anyway, we're docking in five minutes, Matthew. Your father and I are leaving and I expect you shortly."

As Matthew's mother walks away, I watch her in the corner of my eye. Jackie wasn't joking when she said the mother could be a hard old bat.

"Don't mind her," Matthew says, pulling my attention back to him. "Intimidation is practically her way of life."

Something we have in common, I think as I stand. "It's getting late. I should head home."

Matthew walks me down to the doors to the docks and says, "Hey, I was just wondering if you wanted to do something sometime." He's opened and holds the door open for me. "You know, just the two of us."

"I'm always doing something and I'm completely booked for sometime." I give him a pat on the shoulder and walk across the bridge to the docks. "But I'll let you know if anything opens up." Knowing that he's watching my every move, I walk down the dock out of his sight, not bothering to say another word or look back at him. I've taken the first step.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E05: The First Step
« Reply #269 on: December 29, 2017, 09:27:29 AM »
Sorry for not posting in such a long time, guys. Was very busy over the holidays. Will try and get something up in the next little while.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E06: Horsemanship
« Reply #270 on: December 29, 2017, 11:52:06 AM »
Divine Deception
"Horsemanship"


It's Leisure Day and I have travelled to Appaloosa Plains. It's not a far drive, but it's far enough. It's almost the most perfect weather in this almost perfect place.
Where the plains are long, the people are happy to the point of being sick and every click I go, I spot another sign reminding me to be cautious because there are animals at play. This is what it's like to live here. This is what it's like in Appaloosa Plains.

I get to the show grounds by early afternoon. The parking lot isn't as jam-packed as they used to be back when I used to compete. Back in those days you couldn't get a parking spot and had to park on the side of the street a mile away. That was when the equestrian world was active and had money coming in full force from the wealthy and the average Joe alike. How things have changed.

By the time I reach the ringside, the smell of hay and horses surrounds me. Men and women with shiny black boots and white breeches sit on top of million-dollar horses and teenagers run back and forth across the show rings, grabbing fallen poles and putting them back on their stands before hightailing it out for the next rider to begin. I feel as my lips curl into a smile--not a malicious one--because it's as if Vita's here beside me, clapping like she did all those years ago.

I sigh inwardly, reminded of a better time when I spot Matt in the warm-up ring. I haven't spoken to him since his birthday a few weeks ago and that's exactly how I wanted to keep it. If we connected as much as I believe we did, I hope that my distance has made his heart grow fonder. One thing's for sure: Matt wasn't lying like his jerk of a friend Jay about his riding abilities. No, Matt is rather impressive. Heels down, hands out in front of him and it's as if he looks like he and the horse are one. Proof that he's been doing this for a very long time. His horse is a beauty too. Shiny and smooth, it's as if this fearless palomino has been dipped in liquid gold.

"And next in the ring is number 401, Matthew Hamming."

"Go get them, honey!" somebody calls from above me followed by a squeal of excitement. As I look up I spot Matt's mother, Edie Hamming. She's clapping, waving like I remember Vita would. It's no secret Edie loves Matt very much. Jackie told me this when we first spoke. But to see it now, up close, I can see that Edie Hamming's love for her son is a strong force to go up against.

What I didn't expect to see, however, is the man linked to her arm. He doesn't look all that thrilled to be there. He's slumped like an old man next to the trilling woman next to him and is staring blankly at the cell phone in his hand. He has to be Matt's father. Jackie didn't tell me much about him.

I guess now is as best of time as ever. I find the stairs and make my way up to them.

"His kids aren't doing too poorly out there," Mr. Hamming says to Edie as I make it to the top of the stairs. They sit at one of the VIP tables on the patio, a huge umbrella saving their skin from the sun. Mr. Hamming may have been speaking to Edie, but his eyes are still glued to the phone in his hands.

"Matthew and those kids still have two rounds to go and a jump off if everything goes well, darling," says Edie, her eyes following Matthew around the ring while he waits for the bell to ring. "I'd keep from making wagers with that Howard fellow. You know how the pressure gets to both you and Matthew."

"It's just a little fun. We all understand that."

"The only thing you and Howard seem to understand is how to ruin a perfectly good afternoon. Don't put a wager on your son's performance, Arthur."

I stop right next to them, gazing out to the sand ring right as the bell is rung and Matt is given forty-five seconds to get over the first jump. "I may take the bet then." Both Edie and her husband look up at me. Hello again, Mrs. Hamming."

"Ah, Miss Millens, what a surprise. Darling, this is the one Matthew's been talking about."

"Miss Millens," Mr. Hamming repeats, pulling his attention from his phone.

"Samantha," I correct him.

"Arthur Hamming." He shakes my hand. "What a pleasure it is to meet you."

"Likewise," I say. "Your son is a magnificent rider."

"Should be," Arthur tells me as he takes a seat and offers me one. "Got some of the best training the world has to offer, that one." Arthur tells me about how from a young age they saw talent in their son and shipped him off the best pros to get the best training. That he's ridden multimillion dollar horses and competed in the biggest championships and he goes on and on. It's not hard to figure out who this Howard man is. Some competitive dad who lives life through his children.

As Arthur goes on I can see Edie becoming more and more impatient, until finally her face changes completely.

Down below Matt's horse has refused one of the jumps, leaped back into a rear and Matt struggles to keep his seat. Edie gasps, her hands covering her mouth as the colour drains from her face. Arthur swears and they're all still as stone as the gold palomino down below goes back and forth on its hind legs. Matt's grip on his horse's sides weaken and he plummets to the ground. Edie jumps to her feet, a horrible noise coming from deep within her throat, and books it across the patio. Arthur is right behind her and I watch as the horse below bolts off across the ring, out the ingate and out of sight. Men and women run down to the ring to make sure Matt's all right while another group chases down the horse. I decide to head for the horse.

It takes time and coaxing, but I return twenty minutes later with horse in tow. I found the group running after the poor animal yelling and calling for it as if that would make it turn around and meet them. Horses are flight animals so chasing is counterproductive. I end up finding a bag of carrots next to a stall and using a carrot as bribery. The horse came to me like that.

When I walk through the gates to the ring, I see Edie and Matt still in the same spot I last saw them. At least now Matt's standing. The medic has approved him and says that nothing seems to be wrong with him. Seems to be wrong with him? That's an A-class medic if I've ever known of one, but Matt's still on his feet and everybody, his mother included, are talking as if he's continuing the competition. What do I know? I just caught the horse.

"Samantha?" Matthew says, cutting his mother off from whatever she's babbling on about. All I've heard her says since I came back into the ring is how great he's doing.

"I think you lost something," I say, handing him the reins to his horse. The palomino nuzzles his cheek almost as if apologizing. "Are you getting back on?"

"Rule number one in riding," he says, a slight edge coming from his cynicism. I don't question it. I just tell him how great he's going to do. I wink and make my way back to the sidelines.

By the time the show comes to a close, the sun is setting and the parking lot is emptying. I've stayed back with Matt so his parents can head out to a dinner party they are expected at. Edie struggles to depart from her son and once she's gone I hear Matt exhale deeply.

"There's something about an overbearing mother," he mutters as he gives his horse a quick brushing.

"She means well," and I really mean it. I spent pretty much the whole day with this woman and while she can be intimidating and forceful with her opinions, she means well for her son.

With his horse taken care of and eating grain, waiting for the horse trailer to show up to take them back home, Matt offers to buy me a drink. There are few stragglers on the lot still, other riders waiting for their transportation to arrive, and they are all crowding the bar.

"I'm really glad you showed up today," Matt tells me as he leads me to a table. He pulls out the chair for me and then takes his own.

I take a seat. "Well, I found some time during my busy schedule doing something so I thought I would come on over."

"Yeah, sorry about that." I looked at him quizzically. "Sorry for not being a bit more on top of things."

I don't know how to respond. I didn't brush him off the last time he asked me out because I was offended. I just wanted a bit of a chase. And I got it.

"What would you think about going riding on one of our trails, next weekend?" He doesn't let me respond before adding, "You told me you used to ride and dressage to boot. I mean, it's like riding a bike. You don't truly forget, right?"

I smirk as I look at his face. To think this man, this young man is actually somebody who is both a model, a top model in the industry, and an actor. And here he is, begging me to go riding with him.

"Okay, next weekend, riding. You got your something and some time. I like that."

"I like a girl who goes after what she wants," he jokes back. "I've got to admit, it's nice to speak with somebody who doesn't really know me."

I nod. "I know what you mean."

We talk for a little longer. I finish off my drink and get up from my seat. I give him my number and head back to my car.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E07: Crack in the Armour
« Reply #271 on: December 31, 2017, 10:20:05 AM »
Divine Deception
"Crack in the Armour"


It's been said that a husband is prone to keep the same amount of secrets from his wife as he does himself. We all have secrets that we believe are best kept hidden from everybody other than ourselves. We pretend to be friends, the relationships we keep in the dark and hope never find the light of day. But because of this the best-laid plans often find a crack in the armour. Whether we prepare for years, no matter how detailed the preparation is, there is always somebody there looking to exploit it. Doom it whether deliberate or not. Every plan has a flaw, much like a secret we want to keep hidden, and sometimes the line between the two is so thin we struggle with keeping our footing. But focusing on where our feet land doesn't always ensure success. When we build on an unstable foundation, high above the ground, sometimes there's nowhere left to go but down.

"So, you don't think any of this is going, you know, a little fast?" Connie says as she makes her way next to me. She's gasping for breath, sweat trickling down the sides of her face. It may have just turned autumn and early morning, but sweater weather hasn't come into play yet. Then again, rock climbing has always been able to get both our blood running.

"A little fast?" I repeat. I keep a firm hold with my right palm and allow myself two seconds to wipe the sweat from my left onto my shorts.

"Yeah, I mean, you've only known this guy for a couple of weeks."

"You're making it out as if Matt is going to be the love of my life." The corner of my lips curl and then I add, "You know my heart belongs to Nathan. Matt's just a mission. And, besides, I've only gone on a handful of dates with the man, all of them dinner and a movie, might I add."

"I guess," Connie says, though from the tone of her voice, I get the impression that she's not convinced.

"C'mon, Connie, you know I don't do anything without thinking it all the way through."

"It's just that sometimes I don't know what you're thinking, what you're doing."

"Well, right now I'm ascending."

I use all of the strength in my calves and leap upwards to the crevice above me on an angle. My fingers find purchase and save me from many bruises. My legs are next.

"I mean, really, it's all business and you know that. This has nothing to do with love. Sure, Matt may be uninhibited, spontaneous, but he's definitely not the greatest thing I have ever seen." I quickly add jokingly, "And even if he was, it's not like his mother would let me into that family circle without a fight."

But the joked didn't seem to have landed.

"I just don't know if we're doing the right thing." Connie lets go of the wall and drops to the ground, her knees bending immediately to absorb the ground's impact.

I had sensed Connie's lack of confidence since the party a month ago, though I had originally believed it to be because of her fear of water. But now I wonder if it's something else.

I hit the buzzer above me and make my way to the ground again. Connie's already got to her small handbag and grabbed a bottle of water and her personal hand towel, dabbing at her wet forehead. I grab my own water bottle and screw off the cap, taking a few lengthy gulps of water afterward.

"We are doing the right thing," I finally say once I realize that Connie's decided to keep quiet. "Everybody's been a little rattled since Sean's death, and I get it because it has changed the way we look at things. We're no longer playing house, this is the real deal."

Connie takes a deep breath. "I'm just getting a little scared. This, this whole mission, it could go so many ways."

I smile cheerlessly. "It can, but it can go many ways regardless if we fight against it or not. Remember what Master Lee taught is. We are hired by the truly wronged to balance out life's scale. We aren't only doing this because of me or my mother. We are doing this for the people who can't fight for themselves. We're doing it for people like Master Lee."

By early afternoon, I am again heading to Appaloosa Plains. I seem to have been able to steer Connie from her busy mind. I get why she's so upset and I didn't lie when I said that everything's changed since Sean's death. Everybody has been on edge since then, but only pushing forward will things fall back into place.That's what Master Lee would have told us, and I know how much Connie respected and admired that man when he was still alive.

I follow my GPS to Matt's parents' house because that's where the horses are. We've had to reschedule our trail ride for weeks now because of busy schedules and poor weather. I have a pretty flexible schedule, but between ads that need to be shot, commercials that need to be recaptured and the beginnings of Matt's acting career, he seems to always be busy these days. It's not a bad thing really, but I can see why he struggles with finding a significant other—whether it has to do with time and conflicting schedules or always being on the lookout for gold diggers.

I park in the driveway and make my way to the front door of the house. I knock three times and almost immediately the door is opened by Arthur. He glances at me, though he barely takes me in. Not a hello, how are you, get lost, nothing! He's got a Bluetooth device in his ear and more focused on whoever is on the other end of the line.

"Another override?" he snaps, his ears turning a light shade of pink. "Does IT have any clue what they are doing down there or are they more interested in the gallons of coffee brought to their feet every morning? The system has been hacked far too many times over the last month and what are they doing about it?"

I take what he's saying in, but before I can get anything else, Arthur catches my gaze and then motions to the barn and walks back into the house, closing the door behind him.

System overrides? And this has been going on for the last month? This must have to do with Whitman and if not, that would mean there is another group looking to hurt Paragon's system.

Enemy of my enemy, I think with a smirk as I trudge across the lawn to the stable. I will have to let Jackie and the others know that our little pickings are slowly starting to rub Paragon's community the wrong way.

As I near the stable, I spot Matt's show horse. There's only one paddock next to the barn and it's full of hay and a trough is filled with clean water.

I walk into the barn, expecting to find Matt, when I find it empty. The place is spotless. Bridles and saddles are hung neatly on the walls, rubber mats make an orderly pathway from the far wall out the door and two stalls, clean and well-bedded, stand next to one another. Before I can call out Matt's name, I am greeted by a high-pitched whiney. Two moments later, a dark grey horse, almost black, sticks its head out the opening of its stall. It calls out again and then smacks its lips together for attention.

"Hello there," I say and walk over to the horse's stall. A brass nameplate is on the front of the stall, the horse's name in a black fancy font. "Your name's Winnie," I say and I am nuzzled by the horse's muzzle before I can do anything else.

"Ah, he likes you," Matt says as he steps through the front doors. Behind him, his horse follows attached to a nylon lead rope. I spot the name on the other stall. Matt's palomino is named Chevy.

"He's pretty sweet himself," I say, Winnie's whole head in my arms.

"Well, it's a good thing because he's who you'll be riding." He looks me up and down. "Hey, riding gear. I was expecting sweatpants and rubber boots."

"I tried my best. I found some breeches and a pair of paddock boots. Only thing I couldn't get was a pair of half chaps that fit."

"I can see that. Man, you're not going to be able to feel that treacherous pinch on the back of your knee because they're an inch too short."

I laugh. So many weeks when I used to ride were complaining about the blisters on the back of my knees from brand new half chaps that took their time breaking in.

By the time we've had a small chitchat, got our horses all cleaned up and put the tack on, we walk them out of the barn to a handmade wooden mounting block and get on.

"How long has it been since you've last been on a horse?" Matt asks me while I try to get comfortable in the saddle. Thankfully, Matt's fished me out a dressage saddle. While I can't say I'm completely uncomfortable, I know if I had to be placed in a jumper one, I'd be more so.

"I don't know, something like ten years. More maybe." I give a light-hearted shrug and force some weight into the balls of my feet."

Matt makes his way to my side with Chevy. "I guess I'll have to take it easy on you. I'll stay back. Just walk."

I shoot him a look of confidence. "What was it you said when we first set this trail ride up? It's like riding a bike. We never truly forget." I gesture for him to lead the way.

Thirty minutes into it and it all begins to come back. The softness of my reins, the movement in Winnie's back and the aids for walk, trot, canter and gallop. I won't lie, I lose my balance from time to time. While I am the fittest I have ever been in my entire life, knowing where my body is at every moment is still something I work on and being on a horse takes it to a whole other level. Still, being here, riding again, it feels good. It feels right. Especially after being out of the saddle for so many years.

We stop at a creek sometime later. I can't for the life of me figure out how long we've been riding.  It feels like ten minutes, but I have no idea. Ten minutes, ten hours. Though, what I do know is that my legs have stretched to what seems like a mile and I know tonight I may have to take a few inflammatories.

Winnie wants a drink so I give my reins some slack.

"You weren't kidding when you said you hadn't forgotten everything," Matt said with a chuckle. Giving Chevy a good pat on the side of the neck, he dismounts and pulls the tack off so that Chevy can graze on his own.

"He won't run away?" I say innocently.

"Not if he wants to be fed tonight. And Winnie's a bit of a chicken. Scared of his own shadow on his own."

I hop off Winnie and take his tack off too. Matt's right. Winnie always stays a few feet from us and Chevy's so focused on grass that he hasn't moved since Matt let him go.

Up ahead I spot a basket sitting on top of a blue and white plaid blanket. Matt leads me over to it and waves for me to sit down with him. A man steps out from behind a tree. He's dressed in a sharp looking tuxedo, his black hair slicked back and even wears white cotton gloves. In those gloves he holds two wine glasses and a bottle of champagne.

"Champagne?" he says once he's close enough.

I'm not much of a fan of champagne, but with Matt looking at me and seeing how much work he's put into this, I struggle to say no.

"Of course!"

We eat and drink. Sandwiches and finger foods are pulled from basket along with plates and real cutlery. Nothing is plastic, everything is glass and shiny and so perfect. There is a moment when neither of us talks. We watch the horses graze, Winnie roll and squeal, take in the beauty of the landscape. Matt and I even just stop to look at each other.

"Marsha!" somebody screams at the top of their lungs. Both Chevy and Winnie poke their heads up in alert, their eyes pricked forward. Matt and I disconnect in search of the source. Down a few paces, a woman with platinum blond hair runs after a white cat, trying to catch it. Matt's on his feet before I can even say anything. The cat's just making it up a tree when Matt gets a hold of it.

But none of that really hits me. I'm still with the horses—Winnie's gotten a little on edge and I've made sure to make him my top priority right now. What hits me is the look on the woman's face.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" she says with excitement and then it's as if she stops right on the spot. "Wait, aren't you Matthew Hamming? You're Matthew Hamming!"

Matt doesn't confirm or deny this. The woman forgets about her cat, pulls out her phone and begins taking selfies with the man. And Matt doesn't try to stop it.

That's what hits me. It's the look in her eyes, the excitement about being around a celebrity and the ease of having that phone in her hand. Matt being an actor and model ... Having fans... Having cameras. Like my mother, I've been brought into the spotlight. And that always makes things more difficult.

I turn and pat Winnie. "All right, boy, it looks like I'm going to have to step up my game."

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E08: Infamy
« Reply #272 on: January 01, 2018, 06:28:00 PM »
Divine Deception
"Infamy"


Infamy is a power that holds a spellbinding desirability. Some see fortune and glory at the expense of something more. Others see fears, a dark cloak slowly cascading over them on the darkest of nights, a death that can't come fast enough. But in the darkest of nights, stars seem to burn brighter than anybody ever thought possible. For many, the pathway to fame is like a phoenix rising from its ashes, destined to be born again and they will do anything to capture its flame.

Matt puts the car into park and I look at the restaurant in front of us. Business As Usual is the new and big thing in Bridgeport. As their pamphlet says, it's the crème del le crème of all dining experiences, and they aren't lying. Celebrities from all over have come to taste what this place has to offer and walking in off the street? Nope, that's not going to work here. Better call in and reserve a table even if it's for lunch. Tables outside don't need reservations, but when it's a day like today, miserable and cold, one doesn't want to waste their money freezing in the pouring rain.

The Paparazzi swarm outside the front doors of the place, trying to get the best shots to sell to a high-paying magazine or blog. It's people like these that make me a little nervous about being so out in the open. Thankfully it will only be for a limited amount of time. Hopefully.

Matt leads me to a back door and we head inside that way. Waving to two of the chefs, they say hi back and call Matt by his first name. Obviously, Matt must know them and coming through the back door is something of a regularity.

In a few moments, we are out in the dining area and I see Mr. and Mrs. Hamming. It's not like any time has passed since I saw both of them. Edie's eyes light up and she springs to her feet like a jack in the box the moment she sees her son, while Arthur is once again looking at his phone.

"Would you put that thing away, Arthur?" Edie scowls. "You know how much I hate phones at the dinner table." Arthur, begrudgingly, stuffs his phone into his pocket and pulls the Bluetooth from his ear.

"Mom, Dad," Matt says as he puts his arm around me and pulls me closer. "You remember Samantha."

"Of course, how are you, dear?" Arthur says.

"Quite well," I say.

"And this is my sister Chloe."

I follow Matt's hand to the young blonde. She looks to be fifteen or sixteen with thick, wavy hair and lots of lipstick much too mature for her age group. I remember when I was that age that I was working with pinks and blues, not dark colours that made me look twice my age.

She pulls back in her seat and browses over my exterior. "So, she's the next model?" she asks. Her voice is stuffy, nasally and I can't figure out if it's forced or not. I mustn't be on my best game because for a moment I actually think she's calling me a model. It then hits me that I'm just the next girl off the train.

"Chloe," Matt says in a warning tone. Chloe doesn't seem to acknowledge it.

"Let's see how long this one takes. I give it six months tops."

Bloody hell, I think as I just stand there. I know I was a sassy thing back in my younger years—I did some nasty things back in the day that I am not proud of—but was I this obnoxious?

Matt tells her off and she sinks into her chair, her arms crossed over her chest. I check my watch. It's only dinner that I need to get through then everything should be easy sailing. I take a seat between Matt and Edie.

"So, Samantha," Arthur says, leaning forward, "tell us about yourself. What is it you do?"

"Samantha's into architecture," Matt answers for me.

Arthur's eyes light up. "Really?"

I nod. "Not so much now. I mean, I still own the business and buildings still need to be built, but I just sit back now and watch it happen."

"But you're so young."

"It was my father's business. I just took it over."

"You father's no longer with us?" Arthur asks.

"Arthur, everybody's worked a long hour week and the last thing anybody wants to talk about is more work," Edie tells him.

"Oh, I don't mind, Mrs. Hamming," I say. "No, my parents died in a car crash many years ago. My mother was an interior designer and my father built everything from the ground up. When I took over the business, I just took some risks and everything fell into place."

"Fell into place?" Edie seems unimpressed by my choice of words.

"I'm a bit of a risk taker."

"You have to be in business," Arthur defends me. "You just have to watch your money around certain people is all. Some will just take you for every penny if they can."

"Well, luckily I know a good bet when I see one."

"See? I told you, Edie, to make it big, you've gotta' do a bit of gambling." As everybody is looking at their menus, Arthur grabs onto Matt's shoulder and gives him a shake. "It's why I taught this guy about Blackjack and Poker when he was young, young, young."

"Well, he's a fantastic player," I say, just trying to boost Arthur up a bit. While I can feel it's a bit much—Edie doesn't seem too thrilled about where the conversation's going—I know I need to get close to these people and from how we've got along lately, I think Matt's father is going to be easiest.

When the waiter returns, we all order. Arthur continues talking about gambling and how stocks are great investments, but one mustn't get too greedy.

"I did play around with stocks when I first started, but now my main focus is on charity. I am so honoured and humble with where I'm at right now that I like to give back to the community and to those who are struggling."

"It sounds perfect," Edie says through a smile that looks only too forced. "Humanitarian."

"No, she's a good businesswoman, Edie. This is what children need these days. Less on Facebook and Twitter, more smart business sense."

"That'll be the day," Edie says under her breath. "Not everything has to be about gambling and money, Arthur. Matthew and Chloe will venture into other things that we see as mundane and they will strive off it. Matthew is an amazing model and actor. There's no gambling and throwing money around."

"But it is a gamble."

"Keep speaking like that, Arthur, and I'm going to wonder if you've got a gambling problem."

A subtle ring disrupts Arthur and Edie and Chloe pulls her phone out from under the table.

"Chloe, you know how much I don't like seeing that thing at the dinner table," Edie tells her. "Put it away, please."

Our food arrives and everybody goes silent while we take it in. It's a nice change after listening to Edie and Arthur bicker. From the look on both Matt and Chloe's face, it happens rather often.

Edie clears her throat and places her napkin across her lap. "Now, how has work been going, dear?"

Matt turns his attention from his lobster over to his mother. "Good. I booked another acting gig for a guest appearance on some comedy. I can't remember what it’s called."

"Can't even remember what it's called," Arthur mumbles with a shake of his head.

"The point is, Arthur, that he is doing well." Edie prattles on about how great Matt is again, how he's booking things left, right and center. There's a point where I wonder if she's trying to convince Arthur or herself about how great their son is. I mean, I knew Edie loved her son, but this seems almost downright desperate. Even Chloe's lost interest. She's pulled her phone back from under the table and I can hear that she's watching some video clip.

"Did Daddy pay for this gig as well?" Chloe finally says, cutting her mother off.

Arthur almost chokes on a piece of pasta. "What? Whatever would give you that idea?"

"It's all over the internet," Chloe tells him.

"Hogwash"—Arthur waves his hand in dismissal—"Millennials will believe anything they read online these days."

"You don't believe me?" Chloe snaps. In what seems like a flick of the wrist, her phone ends up in the middle of the table, a black and white video from a surveillance camera begins to play.

"Oh, you can and you will, Howard," I hear Arthur's voice from the speaker of the phone. On screen, he is standing over a desk in a well put together office. Another man, who I assume is Howard, sits in the high-backed chair on the other side, leaning back. On the walls of the office are film posters, awards protected by shiny glass cases and certificates that boast his career. This must have been the Howard I heard Arthur speaking to Edie about back when I met them at the horse show. The one Arthur tried to make a wager with on Matt's performance.

"Mr. Hamming, I am sorry, but I refuse to give your son a spot on any of our shows. I've done this before—I've lost track how many times—and I can't give him another gig just because he's your son. His acting is terrible and every time he is on, we waste more time with his emotions off-screen than we are able to get from him on-screen."

I peek over at Matt. His eyebrows furrow and there's a look of hurt on his face. I can only imagine how it feels inside. Like a punch to the stomach.

"Maybe you want to rethink my offer," Arthur says, indignantly as he throws a stack of papers in between them on the desk. Upon closer inspection, I realize that they are photographs. "I'd hate for your wife to get a copy of these for her birthday. It's this Thursday, isn't it? Surely she'll have a stroke after seeing you screw some Barbie-looking secretary."

"This is blackmail."


Arthur shakes his head. "No, this is me asking you as a friend if you would mind getting my son a spot on Arrow or Big Bang or something else."

The video shrinks and a man dressed casually in a white dress shirt holds a microphone to his mouth. "And there you have it, folks. One of Bridgeport's very own being blackmailed by the father of up and coming Matthew Hamming. Where and how this goes moving forward, you can count on Gossip Weekly to keep you updated. Like and Share this video, and leave us a comment on what you believe is going on? Still a fan of Matthew Hamming or do you think he's just another throwaway celebrity who gets by with his looks alone?"

"You paid for my gigs?" Matt asks as the video repeats automatically. "YOU PAID FOR ALL OF MY GIGS?"

Matt's sudden anger makes me jump and I look down at my hands. I can't hear for the life of me what Arthur's reply is because next to me Edie is telling the men to keep their voices down and Chloe is jumping in to defend her brother. I end up getting to my feet and excusing myself to use the washroom.

I close the door behind me and saunter over to the vanity to check my makeup. Even for being down the hall, I can still hear Matt and his father arguing. A smile tickles the corners of my lips.

"Well, that worked well," I whisper to myself. I hum as I check my hair and face in the nearby mirror.

It had been Whitman's idea. He told me how Paragon had used a similar tactic back during the assignment my mother was put on to destroy the Altos. Actually, it was the night she gave birth to me. During a big dinner party when Vita was trying to gain donations to secretly run away with the man she was having an affair with, Paragon exploited it. Whitman and I both decided to give Paragon a taste of their own medicine and boy did it work.

I listen as Matt's voice has got closer. He and his father must have moved from the table. I finish up and walk back out.

I find Matt and his father at the front of the restaurant, car keys in one of Matt's hands.

"I was trying to help you, boy," Arthur tells him. The words he speaks may seem comforting, but his tone contradicts it. "You need a portfolio of sorts, you need experience."

Matt's laugh is hollow. "But—"

"No, understand this: modeling and acting aren't about being pretty anymore, Matthew. You need to express emotion, you need to be real!"

Matt flings up his hands in dismissal and heads out. I follow him.

The drive is a silent one on my end. I just listen. Listen to Matt go off about his parents, how angry he is with them and how he doesn't think they will ever change. I am confident he's not angry about what all has been said regarding what directors and agency's want. I think it has to do with what wasn't. Why his parents did what they did, how they came to the conclusion. Probably the worst part, though, was hearing his father confirm everything the video put out there. That he didn't deny it at all.

"Want to come back to my place for a drink?" Matt asks me and I agree.

"I always knew they were overbearing... I mean, I knew they were liars too, every parent is. It's usually Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, the Easter bunny..."

I look down at the wine glass in my hand, considering the red liquid inside of it. It wasn't long ago that I felt the same way regarding my family. I still get nightmares about how I shouted at Vita in front of a patio full of people and tore off in the very car she bought me for my birthday—she died that night. My mother, Sadie Lawrence, and how everything around her consisted of a lie of some sort. I didn't believe anything about her until we finally allowed our relationship to grow.

"Families are like that..." I say quietly.

Matt doesn't respond to what I said, though part of me wonders if he heard what I said at all.

"I don't know what to do anymore," he goes on. "I'm a fraud, I'll never work again. How am I supposed to come back from that?"

"Life has a way of turning our confidence into question. I think you should take a step back and see why you're in this situation." I pause and then add, "Being in the limelight is stressful. Maybe being out of it for a bit will be a good thing."

We look at each other and it's as if everything slows around me. I take in his pale eyes, that for looking so cold, hold so much warmth. The way his brows raise in concern and the freckle he has next to his nose. I take them all in and then—

We kiss. My eyes close automatically as if I'm some children's doll leaning back. Matt's lips are soft and warm. I can taste his last drink. I feel his hands make their way to the sides of my face and he kisses me again, more aggressively this time. My hands have gone to the back of his head all on their own, my fingers slipping through his dark locks. Matt's hands move down to the back of my dress and in that instant, I push him away softly.

"I should go."

Matt pulls back and seeing his expression literally sink, I know that I've offended him. I place my wine glass on the table and get to my feet as he gets off of me, giving me space.

"I'll see you tomorrow?" I say half asking, half telling. I can see that Matt's emotions, whether he would ever admit it or not, have come very close to the surface. Between all that's happened today and this... It's obvious that he's slowly falling into a lapse of inebriation. I softly pat him on the shoulder as I walk around the sofa. He doesn't say anything to me. He just stares into the dancing flames in the fireplace. I don't say anything else. I see my way out because like the limelight, that fire that's burning so hot inside of him right now, that anger he has for everybody, it will die out, and like his fame, he will be left with nothing, only known for what he used to be.

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E08: Infamy
« Reply #273 on: January 21, 2018, 02:50:49 PM »
UPDATE: it's been a busy few weeks, but I have most of the next episode done. Because of a weapons mod, an additional opening scene will be available to be read http://sims3storiestv.wordpress.com

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Re: Divine Deception -- S4E09: The Second Dose: part 1
« Reply #274 on: January 27, 2018, 08:56:41 PM »
Divine Deception
"The Second Dose: part 1"



((Because of a weapons mod, the opening monologue, as well as the first scene, can be found HERE ))


***

"Can you believe these people?" Matt asks two and a half hours later. He's just gotten out of bed and grabbed the newspaper to accompany his morning coffee. "It's been three weeks and the media's still going on about that bloody argument between me and my father. How many articles can they possibly make over something so..."

"Mundane?" I mutter more to myself than Matt, but he takes it anyway.

"My choice of word would have been private, but, sure, let's go with mundane."

I give him an apologetic look. "The media has a way of exposing the worst in people and creating plenty of stories with it. It's just how it goes. Best to ignore it"—I pull the newspaper from Matt's hands and place it on the counter—"and move on with life."

"That may be all and well for you, Sam," he says tentatively as he grabs the newspaper again and looks it over, "but your father didn't ruin your life."

I open the door of the oven and pull out our french toast. If only he knew, I think.

"You can't honestly think that you're capable of hating them for the rest of your life," I say and put down the plate in the middle of the table. I grab some cutlery for the two of us as well as two plates and set our places.

"Of course I wouldn't waste my time and energy hating them for the rest of my life. That's way too long. I'll just hate them for the rest of theirs."

A laugh springs from my lips. "But they were just trying to help. They love you very much."

Matt takes a seat and while he may be pretending to read the articles, I know, just from his lack of movement in his eyes, that he's contemplating what I've said.

"Why don't we invite them over tonight, for dinner, all three of them?" I suggest after a moment. "We'll cook, we'll entertain, we'll clear the air."

"They're probably not able to make it. You know how busy they've been."

Making sure not to let him see, I roll my eyes. Really? Edie hasn't seen her son, whom she dotes on every single minute of the day, in over three weeks. She'll drop everything she's doing, no matter what it is, to find a spot next to her son's side again. I can count on it. And even if Matt's father is still angry, a mother's love for her child is nothing to go up against.

"Just give it a try," I say. "Give your mother a call and see if they can make it."

I am not shocked when they call back to say that they'll be here with bells on, though I am a little surprised that they end up arriving two hours before expected. Edie's pretty much thrown open the passenger door and jumped out while the car—driven by Arthur—has barely slowed down. And then she's running, hightailing it to the front door where she rings the doorbell and knocks at the same time. She isn't thrilled when I open the door. She barely says a word to me—Hello to you too—and bolts past me to find Matt in the living room. After a half an hour of catching up on Matt's life—where have you been? What have you been up to? Did you miss me?—Edie actually has enough self-control to pry herself from her son's side and helps me with dinner.

I know Matt's being distant tonight. He makes small talk with Chloe, who is usually more focused on her phone, and humours his mother with all of her questions. But he and his father haven't said much of anything. Like two peas in a pod. Both have their arms crossed over their chest, slouched in their seats, miserable with the world. I think the both of them are going to call it quits before Arthur saunters over to the piano and begins playing a tune.

"You two remember when we used to play at those parties we'd hold at home?" Arthur says, playing as if not needing to pay attention to where his fingers go. He's a natural. "I'd be on the piano—"

"—and, Matthew," Edie jumps in excitedly, "you'd come running down through the guests like a boy on Christmas morning with that toy guitar in your hands. You always wanted to be a star!"

While cringing slightly inwardly, I can see Matt on the other side of the room actually warming up to the memory.

"That's right," Arthur agrees and then glances over at Chloe. "And then years later you wanted to be a part of it and ended up banging pots and pans that you got from the kitchen."

As they continue going along Memory Lane, I grab a glass of wine and down it in one glug. It's not the cheesiness that has me going. It's the fact of how simple these people's problems are and who they care about. I know I want them to get back together so that I am another step closer to my own goal, but seeing them now all happy and cheery—Oh look! Matt's grabbed his guitar and has begun playing—ignites a flame in the pit of my stomach that I find rather difficult to ignore. Here I am trying to fight a continuous battle to save my family from the despicable ways of Paragon and these people don't have to say sorry or do anything other than bringing up a thing that happened years upon years ago when Matt and Chloe were cute and pinchable.

To say that I am thrilled when dinner is ready is more of an understatement than anything. It gives me time to stuff my face, yet it also gives me time to think about why I wanted these people back in my life so badly. Once again I remind myself that bringing this family back together right now will bring me one step closer to gaining access into Paragon, but still... Having to endure a night of them, forcing a smile on my face, listening to Edie prattle on about how great her son is. Maybe it's my lack of sleep these days or the tone I can't get out of my head of when I last spoke to Nathan... Either way, my impatience is getting the better of me.

After dinner, I suggest that Edie and Arthur come and try out the new hot tub Matt's just had installed. Both of them seem intrigued and hurry to the washroom to get changed.

"How are you doing?" I ask Matt who's just finished filling the dishwasher. I help him by tossing in a pod and starting it up. "They seem thrilled. The old gang's back together."

His eyebrows raise and then lower again. "I guess you could say that," he says. "You were right, Sam. They were just trying to help." He embraces me and then kisses me on the cheek.

"Ugh! Get a room, would you?" Chloe says, disgustedly as she walks into the kitchen to grab a pop from the fridge.

Matt disregards this. "Chloe, will you be joining us—"

"Uh, ew! I don't think so." She closes the door and cracks open her can. "Besides, Gossip TV's on in, like, ten minutes."

"Gossip TV?" I ask.

"Uh, yeah! It's a celebrity news show with the latest gossip on anybody worth talking about."

"Should be called Trash TV?" Matt mutters.

"Tell that to how many millions of viewers. Like, c'mon, Matt, you only don't like the show because it was their website that leaked Daddy's video about you weeks ago—"

"You have no idea, Chloe, about how vile that show is. They are still talking about me—"

Chloe makes a dismissive gesture with her hand. "O-M-G, old people problems much?" and she walks out of the room.

I can feel Matt's arms tense around me and I embrace him back. "Don't bother with her," I whisper to him and look him deep in the eyes. "She won't listen. Let her go." He goes to say something and I press a finger to his lips. "It's a girl thing."
 
As Matt heads out to the hot tub with his parents, I make my way to the washroom. I close the door behind me, lock it and turn on the loud fan. Pulling out my cell, I make the call and bring the phone to my ear.

"Yeah?" the voice on the other end picks up.

"Hey, Whitman, it's me."

"Ah, Deli, good! Checking to make sure everything is set?" He doesn't let me answer. "Well, worry no more, everything's been sent and we should be good to go."

"The—"

"Yup!"

"And the—"

"All done."

"Perfect," I say. "Then I guess we just watch and see what happens. Give me a call if anything changes." I'm about to hang up when—

"Hey, Deli, can I ask you something?"

"Sure, what is it?" There's silence on the other end of the line, though I can still hear Whitman breathing. "Whitman, I'm kind of on a tight schedule here."

"I know, it's just that I'm not usually one to pry into things and get into the backdraft—"

"Just say it," I tell him.

"Fine, Connie's acting really strange lately and I don't know if I should be taking it into account or if it's normal or..."

"Define strange."

"She's worrying a lot. She's stressed out of her mind—Yesterday, I think I actually heard her crying in the bathroom."

I sigh and rub the back of my neck. I don't doubt for a moment that what Whitman's said is the truth, even the part where Connie's been crying. We spoke about her opinion of the mission about a month ago, though I thought maybe she's started pulling herself around to what we had decided to do as a team.

"I can't say I haven't noticed," I say finally. "It's the reason why I chose you to mail in those files and not her. Connie is struggling to come to terms with what we're doing. I know and I have talked to her about all of it. But it's up to her to accept it."

"What should I do?" I can hear Whitman's empathy for Connie's wellbeing in his voice.

"Set up a meeting tomorrow night. Make sure everybody's there—Nathan, Connie, Jackie. We'll discuss what our plans are going forward and hopefully, everybody can come to peace with it."

I finish with Whitman, get changed and head out to the hot tub. While I make my way through the family room, I notice Gossip TV has started, Chloe all ready on the sofa. I leave the door open to the deck, hang my towel on one of the hangers and slip into the hot water with the others. Edie is still, still going on about Matt to the point where I don't think their conversation has gone anywhere since they showed up. I think of the moment I met her back at Matt's birthday party and how I was intimidated by her, how I'd hate to get on her bad side. But seeing her here, so desperate for her son's approval... Maybe I overestimated this woman's abilities.

"Mom...!" Chloe calls from the other room.

I glance over my shoulder to see the television. The words "BREAKING NEWS!" takes up most of the screen followed by a female anchor and Chloe's photo next to her.

"It seems the Hamming household struggles again to clean their slate and find purchase on a story-free lifestyle," the woman's voice coming from the flatscreen sounds as if through a tin can. "Weeks ago it was leaked that model and up and coming actor Matthew Hamming was paying for the gigs that he got."

I peek over at Matt whose face reddens with fury.

"But now it's time for somebody else to shine. It's been leaked that his little sister, Chloe Hamming, is actually adopted."

Edie and Arthur's faces both drain of colour at the same time and get to their feet. Neither of them can get out of the hot tub fast enough, and when their feet make contact with the deck, they slip and almost fall on their faces.

"Chloe Hamming's personal records were uploaded and shared worldwide this afternoon and after some investigating, Gossip TV can confirm that they're the real deal."

The family room turns into an uproar. Chloe's on her feet, screaming at the top of her lungs at her parents, questioning them between sobs yet not allowing either one of them to answer. Edie trying to calm her down, put a hand on her shoulder, get her to sit down, get her to listen, but Chloe just goes off again.

"First the cloak and dagger stuff with Matt and now this?" Chloe's like a freight train, ready to barrel over anything in her path, both physically and figuratively. "Who the hell are you people?"

"Chloe, that's no way to speak to us—"

"Oh shut up!" Chloe runs right on over Arthur, pushing past both him and Edie. "You're not even my real father! NEITHER OF YOU MEAN ANYTHING TO ME!" And from the hot tub, I watch Chloe run out of the room, followed by the front door slamming behind her.

 

anything