Delaney barely has time to take in the changes that have been made to the old warehouse before Ian pounces on her, pulling her into an embrace as he tries to kiss her.
"Pretty swank, huh?" he asks, as though this is all perfectly normal.
"Get off me!" Delaney shouts, hitting Ian's shoulders as hard as she can with her fists as she wriggles out of the tight squeeze his arms have around her.
"Forget this! If this is your idea of 'strictly business', I'm out of here," she says once she's finally free.
"Hey, don't be like that," Ian protests, "I was just playing!"
"Play time is over," the husky, commanding growl of the boss, at least Delaney assumes this guy is the boss she was invited here to meet, demands, "Time for work."
"Uh, right, sir," Ian says, backing off as the boss approaches Delaney, taking her hand, "Uh, what work?"
"Make the lady a drink," he answers, his voice both indulgent and impatient at the same, like Ian was a difficult but adorable child in need of guidance, "They call me King Cole," he says, turning his attention to Delaney.
"But that's not your real name," Delaney replies.
"No, it isn't," Cole says, and motioning her to follow him to the bar.
"Pie Man talks about you all the time," Cole says, leaning close to her as Ian serves her a Simsapolitan, "But he's never mentioned how you can slip past a locked door without touching the alarm, or how you can disappear from sight in a puff of smoke."
"Well, I'm good," Delaney says, smooth and confident, "But I think Ian exaggerated a bit. I didn't disappear in a puff of smoke." She concludes with a lighthearted laugh.
"I saw what I saw," Ian says, opening a beer for Cole, "Or, I saw what I didn't see. You were like ghost."
"It was pouring rain," Delaney says with a smile, "That must have clouded your perception."
"Well, you did an amazing job of it," Cole says, moving to the stool beside, "Whatever your methods." The way he emphasized his words indicated he didn't believe her, but for now, he was willing to let it ride. "Keep that up and you'll go far in this organization."
"Then you'll take me on?" she asks, too eager she realizes, but too late to dial it down.
"You wouldn't be here if I weren't planning to use you, " Cole says. "What do you think of what we've done with the place?" he gestures around the old warehouse, transformed into a lounge. The loft above, where Jack kept his pile of mattresses, she notices, has been closed off and turned into rooms of some kind.
"This was an official crime scene just days ago," she replies, "I"m surprised you were able to acquire it so quickly."
"You'd be amazed what a hefty contribution to Mayor Charming's campaign fund will buy you. Especially since she runs uncontested every term, and runs this town like her own personal dictatorship. A benevolent one, apparently, as the peasants don't seem too downtrodden. But still, what does she do with all that money?" he answers, ending with a light laugh. "Hook, our lawyer, was set to have Horner out in a matter of days, but with the mayor's recommendation, he'll be out tomorrow."
Delaney can't help but smile at this news, "Thanks you," she says, but her smile dims when she catches Ian eye.
"Thank your lovely mayor," Cole says, pulling on his beer, "We work primarily out of the city, you understand," he says, getting right into business, "But staying out of the law's reach there can be difficult. This place, in this small town, out of their jurisdiction, is the perfect spot to bring in the goods and set up the distribution network. Tell me, Delaney Brannon, what do you know about the history of this fine town?"
Delaney's brows knit in confusion at the sudden conversation change. Something in his voice tells her he's not making small talk, and he's looking for a very specific answer from her.
"Well, not much, really," she admits, because making up bullshit at this pont would probably be worse than just coming clean, "I guess I didn't really pay attention too much in history class."
He chuckles lightly before taking another pull of his beer, "I'm not asking about the history they teach in school. I mean the real history, the deep past. Tell me how much you know," he insists pointedly.
Delaney blushes at her failure, "I'm sorry, I really have no idea what you're talking about."
He cocks his head at her, looking her over as if to determine if she's telling the truth or hiding some big secret. Delaney wishes she could see his eyes behind his mirrored sunglasses. "That's a shame," he says, seemingly genuinely saddened by her ignorance, "I think we'll call you 'Ghost'."
"Ghost?" Delaney, taken by surprise, again, by his sudden change in tack.
"Everyone gets a nick," Ian comments.
When she gets home, Iola is in the nursery playing with Jace. "Do you know anything about the history of this town?" she asks. Unlike herself, Iola paid attention in class, and knows lots of things.
"What kind of history?" Iola asks, looking at her quizzically.
"Not the kind they teach in school," Delaney says, remembering Cole's exact words, "The real history, the deep past."
Iola considers for a moment, looking at her with her head cocked to the side, much as Cole had, as though considering Delaney's worthiness. Or figuring out of she's crazy, Delaney thinks, knowing how the question sounds.
"Well, thousands of years ago, this site was a dragon's nest," Iola tells her. "That's where the name Drake's Hollow comes from, though nowadays it's mostly attributed to a family named Drake. They're gone now, but you'll find some of their kin in the old cemetery."
Well, ask a crazy question, Delaney thinks as she smiles and thanks Iola for the information. That silliness can't be what Cole was after. He probably meant something to do with the criminal organization that used to own the warehouse. And there's no way Iola would know about that.
Farrell loves his son, but he's started tuning him out whenever he starts going on about his wedding plans, smiling and nodding and murmuring, "As long as you're happy," until he can get away.
"Music is fundamentally all about mathematics," Farrell says, helping Jace learn a tune on his xylophone. Now this is a conversation he can get into.
"Eep!" Moth exclaims, recognizing the visitor on his porch. The fairy looks around for an escape, but Cole is blocking the only door into his house. "Did he sendyou?" he asks in a nervous whisper.
"Calm yourself, fairy," Cole laughs, "The old dragon hasn't surfaced in years. Decades. I was in the neighborhood, and I thought I'd pay you a visit."
Moth reluctantly invites his visitor in.
"You don't make social calls," Tansy says, accusation in her voice, "What are you doing here?"
"I'm joining your little community," Cole answers her, "And I thought I'd be neighborly."
"You can't live here!" Tansy exclaims.
"No?" Cole answers, and laughs, "Tell that to your mayor. But, rest easy, fairy, I'm not going to live here. I've acquired a bit of property which I'll be using for business purposes. I've noticed the wards have been reinforced, which is going to come in very handy for my purposes. But I hardly think you are putting so much effort into my business interests. What are you two protecting?"
"We're just ensuring the safety of our children," Tansy says, sitting beside him, "That's all."
"That's the second lie I've been told today," Cole says, "The first lie came from one of your charges, if I'm not mistaken."
"If you know so much, why are you here asking?" Tansy demands.
"Me? I only know what my nose tells me. There's dragon's blood here."
"What? No!" Tansy insists, "Aouregan is one of the last of the mortals to bear my father's gift in her blood. She was entrusted to Moth's care as a child, and now we protect her and her children here."
"A witch? Here?" Cole asks, "Interesting."
Tansy frowns, realizing she's given away too much.
"Don't look like that," Cole laughs at her uneasy expression, "We're on the same side here, I think."
"Jack?" Delaney asks, her voice barely a whisper, as though he'll disappear if she speaks to loudly, "Is it really you?" She was expecting him to be released today, but she was not expecting to find him in Jace's nursery as soon as she woke up.
"Shadow let me in," Jack explains, tickling Jace as he speaks, "They released me at dawn, and I got Ian to drop me straight here. I couldn't wait to see you, and our son."
"Did Ian say anything to you?" she asks timidly, "I mean, about..."
"Yeah, he did," Jack says, his tone growing serious, "Are you crazy? We need to talk about this."
"Are you sure you want to talk right now?" Delaney purrs, nestling into his arms as he puts Jace down, "It's been so long..."
"We can talk later," Jack agrees.
She leads him back to her room, still the same as when she shared it with Cassidy, with two single beds.
"I missed you," she whispers as she pushes him down on her bed.
"Not as much as I missed you," he answers.
She always believed it when she said she loved him, but she never really felt it like she does now as she straddles his thighs and takes him inside her. What she had called love was just a thrill. He scratched her itch for danger and risk. But it's all changed around her, her dangerous boy has grown into her security, her safe place. He'll always be there for her, always have her back. And always love her.
She rolls onto her back, her arm hanging off the side of the bed, barely large enough to accommodate hem both, even lying so close together their skin, slick with sweat, sticks together. Real love, she thinks, her heart squeezing into a tight ball in her chest, remembering Ian and what she'd done. It will all be gone if her ever finds out.
"You're crying," Jack whispers, wiping away the tear that rolled across her chhek.
"I'm so happy to see you," she sighs.
"Babe, what you did with Ian," Jack says, and Delaney's heart jumps into her throat, "Why are you getting involved in this shit? You're not like me, you could do anything, be anything? Why would you choose to work for Cole."
Delaney relaxes, realizing he's talking about the robery, "I don't want some job in an office," she says, "That's not what I am."
"But this, Laney? I was going to try to get out of this racket, for us, for Jace. And now you've jumped in. How are we going to raise our son if we're out working for Cole at night? What kind of life are we going to give him?"
"He'll have the life I had," Delaney says, "In this house. My uncle Farrell adores him. He even taught him how to talk."
"You want to live here?" Jack asks.
"Well, you were right,you know. You and me, we aren't going to be able to this on our own, with the life we live. Jace will need this place, this family."
"Laney, we could raise our own son, if we got out of the business," Jack protests.
"It's a little late for that, " she answers, "It's not like you can just walk from Cole, right?"
Jack has no answer for that.
Delaney wriggles out from under him, "C'mon, I have to get ready floor Shadow's wedding today. Are you coming?"
"He invited me," Jack smiles, "I just have to get back to the warehouse to check in with Cole. I'll meet you there."
While Shadow has been in a flutter planning for this big day, excited about their nuptial celebration, Iola's fears have been rising. It started with simple anxiety about being the center of attention and having to speak vows and kiss Shadow in front of an audience, but now that the day has come, her anxiety has worked its way up into an irrational phobia, and her long standing fear of clowns has suddenly come forward again to paralyze her.
Her anxiety follows her into the wedding hall. Having a big celebration was the worst idea! Everyone knows that large gatherings just attract the Grim Reaper. Someone will die today, and it will be her fault.
Shadow senses his bride's unease, and quickly moves to comfort her. "It's all right," he soothes her, "My mother and I cast wards for luck and protection on the hall. Nothing bad will happen, I promise."
Guests begin gathering in the hall. Newlyweds Jesse and Cassidy Horner are among the first arrivals.
Aurora congratulates her brother and wishes him happiness.
"You made it," Delaney sighs when Jack shows up, "With my father here, I was afraid you might change your mind."
"I would never blow you off," Jack says, and Delaney smiles, knowing that to be the absolute truth, "You look amazing," he adds, wondering if now would be a good time to propose to her. But no, he doesn't have a ring. And more important, he needs a plan to support her and Jace while getting them both out of the business before he can ask her to be his wife.
Standing beneath the wedding arch, Iola trembles with dread, overwhelmed by her deepest fears coming to life. Clowns! They could be anywhere, anytime. You'd never know, until one hit you in the face with a pie.
"I'm right here," Shadow says gently, steadying her, "I've got you. Just keep your eyes on me."
"Ready?" he asks, his voice low so only she can hear. Iola nods, her throat dry. "I love you," he says, and takes her hand. Iola blushes, and feels her knees getting weak. This better be over soon, she thinks, or I might faint. Oh, don't think about fainting, she chides herself.
It takes all her strength to stand somewhat steadily and repeat the vows Shadow speaks. He might as well be speaking a foreign language, she's just mouthing the syllables phonetically, unaware of the words they form as she spends her concentration on not fainting or thinking about clowns as they get through the ceremony.
The pianist is overcome with emotion.
As is Cassidy.
Elliot, back from his honeymoon, sits next to Max Hawksquill, Iola's younger brother. Claire couldn't make it because of pregnancy related discomfort. Like his father, Elliot is expecting one last late child with his younger wife. Behind Max is Wren Woods, who is now married to Kyle. Kyle surprise everyone when his relationship with Amanda Rivers ended out of high school, and he took up immediately with Wren.
"You did beautifully," Shadow comments as they head into the reception area to cut the cake.
"I couldn't have done it without you,: Iola says, sighing with relief that it's finally done.
"I should hope not. Or you'd be someone else's wife," Shadow says, making her blush.
"I should have known it would be so hard on you," Shadow apologizes as he carries her into their bedroom after they leave the party. He'd been so wrapped up in his excitement, he hadn't paid enough attention to how she felt about his plans, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry. It was beautiful," she murmurs, nuzzling close to kiss his neck.
Iola slips out of her gown, and then works on Shadow's vest buttons as he lies her down onto their bed.
"You don't have to be afraid of anything," he whispers, "I'll always be there for you."
So, I've mentioned on the MTS thread some problems I'm having with the game hanging while saving. (Also, during anything that requires loading, like going from build to Edit Town, or saving a Sim in CAS) It's gotten to where almost every save fails. Including the save after the wedding.
I was going to try to stage another wedding to get more reception pictures after the cake cutting, but I can't get past 6am in game lately, I just keep hanging on the save.
I've tried a few things, like rooting out corrupt files and optimizing my PC for performance and shutting down background tasks, etc, but nothing has worked. Next step is backing up my saves and running a vanilla game to see how it performs. If it works, I can add my CC in until I find what the problem is.
That might take some time, so it might be awhile before I can continue playing my legacy. Hopefully I will be able to continue in this town.