Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chapter 44: Change Your Life and Be Happy

Peridot likes to have more background information on her target before she moves in on him, but Jack Horner has no trail to follow. So she makes do with what she does know, he's one of Bowmn's underlings, and he's in Newport for a few days to break in the new guy. At least tailing him is easy enough, without Bowman around to cast his wards, so Peridot takes along a lesser MorcuCorp operative along with her as part of her cover, both of them dressed like the kind of women that hang around these shady bars where Jack and his new partner have been having their meetings.

It isn't long before their bait is taken; unfortunately, the fish she wanted doesn't seem interested. Enrique approaches them alone at the bar. 

"You girls looking for some company?" he asks.

Nina gets to work flirting with Enrique, leaving Peridot to go after the real target. The problem is, he isn't joining them.

"What about your friend?" Peridot asks.

"Him? We don't need him," Enrique says with a smile, "I'm all the man both of you girls need."

Peridot considers making a bold move toward Horner herself, but decides it's the wrong tack. If he wanted cheap and easy, he'd have gone for it by now; getting any closer to him here only to be pushed away would just blow her cover for future attempts. She and Nina spend another half hour flirting with Enrique before leaving.

Peridot takes a more non-descript disguise as she tails Horner the next day, while he's alone. She surprised when he goes into a bookstore. She would never take him for a reader.

Peridot browses the shelves, staying in motion, never getting far from her target, but never getting close enough for him to notice her. Horner stays at one shelf, looking over the titles for an hour before he turns suddenly, obviously unhappy, and walks out of the store without making a purchase.

Instead of following him, Peridot goes to the shelf that kept him occupied the entire he was here, and finds herself in the self-improvement section. He spent an hour here, frustrated, not finding what he was looking for. He's a difficult place, she surmises, looking to change himself, his circumstances, his life, but can't find his way to make that happen. He's not a reader, and the numerous titles here just overwhelmed and confused him. What he needs is a guru, Peridot realizes, and that's her way in.

"I've got a plan," she says when Geoffrey takes her call, "I'm going to need to lease a storefront."

"I'll make it happen, today," Goeffrey promises.

"Shadow, I know that's you."

"How could you tell?" Shadow asks, once he's taken his true form again, his head rested on her lap. He's still a novice, and the transformation expends much of his energy, leaving him exhausted

"You're my husband. I know you," Iola says, "When did you learn to take an animal form?"

"I've been practicing on my spirit journeys, but that's the first time I've done it here. I can only take Arawn's form right now, because he's my familiar."

Iola caresses his hair, and wonders if he's awake enough to hear what she has to tell him.

"Hey...Are you...?" he asks suddenly, his head pressed close to her stomach, "Yes, you are. I can feel it."

"I thought I might be," she says with a smile, "I guess you just confirmed it."

That rouses him to full alertness, and Shadow sits up to take her into his arms. "Another boy, " he says, "We're having another boy."

"I love you, Shadow," she whispers.

"And I love you, Iola,"

Jack came out of hotel room and found a flyer stuck to his motorcycle. Become Who You Really Are, it said, Change Your Life and Be Happy. Then there was an address and a coupon for a free session at a meditation center in town. Normally, he'd just throw this kind of thing in the trash, but this advertisement speaks to him, to his current confusion, his wish to become something more than what he is now, to take his life in a new direction. Maybe this meditation crap is just bullshit, but it's a free session, and he hasn't got any better ideas at the moment, so rides over to the address on the flyer, willing to give it a shot.

"Hi, I'm Heather," the instructor greets him with a light-hearted bubbly air, which quickly turns into startled concern, "Oh, wow, I can feel the turmoil in your spirit," she tells him, "There's so much going on your life right now, you need to make a change, but all this negative energy is blocking you, leaving you paralyzed."

"That's why I'm here," Jack admits.

"Great," Heather enthuses, "The first thing you need to do is clear away all the negative energy. Meditation will help you free your mind, so you can focus on the areas in your life you need to change."

Jack joins her other students in a circle on the floor, imitating the way they sit and hold their hands. "Just breathe," Heather says, "In, the out, deep, regular breaths. Empty your mind of all thought."

Jack had always considered himself somewhat empty headed by nature, but tasked with truly emptying his mind, he finds much more full than he'd imagined, and achieving emptiness is beyond him.

"It's okay," Heather says quietly, noticing his distress, "The first time is never easy. Why don't we go sit over there and talk a little before you try to dive into the meditation?'

"This whole meditation thing isn't really my thing," Jack admits as he sits next to her on her couch.

"But you came here for a reason," Heather says, "Maybe the universe is trying to tell you something."

Jack chuckle, "You sound just like Shadow."


"Yeah, he's my girlfriend's - my ex-girlfriend's- cousin. We all grew up together," Jack says, "He's into all kinds of weird occulty stuff, he says his a shaman or something."

"And he's tried to help you?" Heather asks.

"Yeah, he has. He did this thing, he called it 'dream work' where he said he'd be guiding my dream. I don't know if it worked, exactly, but I did have a dream that night that showed me something I hadn't really seen before. About my girlfriend, and our relationship."

"So, it's relationship troubles that are causing all this negative energy that's blocking you?" Heather leads with another question.

"It's not just her," Jack says, "It's me."

Jack goes on to tell her the whole history of himself and Delaney, how covering for her got him expelled from high school, how his lack of education limits his career choices. While they are talking, the session time ends and her other students leave.

"I'm taking too much of your time," Jack says apologetically.

"Not at all," Heather smiles, "I'm here to help people, and the universe sent you to me for a reason."

Geoffrey loiters about outside the workshop, reluctant to leave Peridot alone with Jack. He tells himself his concern is for her safety, but he knows she's a highly skilled and expertly trained assassin, and if Jack proved a threat, she's more than able to neutralize him with her bare hands. So he tells himself that he's just here to oversee this operation, which is so very important to their cause, but he also knows Peridot is doing what she does best here, and that she requires no supervision. So why this rising concern for her, this need to hover about her?

"It is time for me to close up the shop, though," Heather says, "But I'd like to continue our conversation. There's a nice little cafe next door, maybe we could go there?"

Outside her workshop, the tone of their conversation shifts from a counsellor-student session to a getting-to-know-you first date encounter. Peridot came prepared with a whole fictional biography for Heather which she shares with Jack over an iced latte, while leading him to divulg his own personal details. Much of it useless, about himself, his relationship with his parents and brother, but he does talk about Delaney often, and there are nuggets of information about the Brannons in general. 

She'll need to hook him in further to get more out of him, and her ultimate goal is still to get him to bring her into his hometown, to get her past the wards that are keeping MorcuCorp at bay. When the time is right, she turns up her charm, changes the tone into light flirtation. When he reaches across the table to touch her face and call her beautiful, she knows she's succeeded.

"My place isn't far from here," she says, deciding he's ready, "I'd like to spend more time with you."

"This is your place?" Jack asks, surprised by the pale, sterile living room.

This operation was set up at a moment's notice, and Peridot neglected to set up a suitable home for Heather. "I told you about my brother, right?" she asks, "This is his place. His company sent him overseas for a few months, and I've been staying here until I can find the time to get my own place. It's a daily struggle, believe me, to not reupholster everything he has with some color."

"I don't want you to get the wrong idea," she says as she climbs up onto his lap for a kiss, "I don't do this with every guy that walks into my workshop. But, there's something between us,something deep, something real. I felt as soon as I saw you."

Delaney, Delaney, Delaney...he's never been with anyone else, she's been his whole world since high school. And she destroyed him, Jack reminds himself, and being with Heather will help him forget her. But when it comes right down to it, he realizes, when he's down to his underwear making out with this gorgeous girl who says she has a deep attraction for him, all he can think about is how much he misses Delaney.

"I'm sorry, Heather, I can't do this," Jack says with a sigh, letting her go, "Not like this, not tonight."

"What's wrong," she asks, sitting up next to him.

"You're a great girl, Heather, and drop dead gorgeous," Jack says, "But I still have all these feelings for Delaney I haven't worked out yet. It's not fair to you, or me, for us to get involved like this."

"I understand," Heather says, kissing him lightly, "You came to me with all this negative energy, and I pounced on you."

"Well, don't blame yourself," Jack laughs, "I like you, Heather. But I need time." 

"You'll come back to my workshop?" Heather asks as he's dressing to go.

"Sure, I'll give it a try, " Jack promises, "And you know, maybe..."

"I look forward to it," she says with a smile as she watches him go, trying not to feel like she failed. The seduction after all was not the end goal, and she did get him hooked into seeing her again.


  1. 'Heather' moved in a little fast... but I don't think she knows any better. xD Poor Jack. I have the feeling he's going to get to punch a MC operative one of these days.

    And lol Geoffrey. His attachment to this clone makes me think he's either overseen this one like a daughter and the concern is fatherly (immortal Geoffrey theory), or they're around the same age and he liiiikes her (younger clone Geoffrey). /wild fan theories

    I know age isn't always a factor in romance, but... YEAH those are my ideas. *nos*

    1. Yeah, 'Heather' did move in for the kill rather quickly. She does use seduction as part of her M.O., so yeah, that's what she knows. And it could have worked with some guys.
      Poor Jack is just so not prepared for MorcuCorp.

      Your wild fan theories are not so wild. There's something to that. ;D

  2. I'll get this bit out the way first: YAAAYYY MORE BABIES!!
    I also loled a lot at Iola's facial expressions when Shadow came in as a cat. (Not enough to run outside though, I'm afraid) She looked terrified in the first one. That was a brilliant idea as well! I'd've never thought of that.

    Oh Jack <3 I wish you could see through 'Heather'. I'm glad he didn't go up to her at the bar, or 'go all the way'. I didn't think he was that kind of guy, and I was happily proved right. When I got to the bit where they're on the floor in their underwear I got a bit worried though. I thought maybe she looks enough like Delaney for him to go ahead and do it.
    I felt like crying when you revealed what he was looking at in the bookstore. :( I hate that he doesn't feel good enough! You're good enough for me, Jack! I like bad boys...

    I don't want them to find the Brannons!!! So badly that I would forgive you if Jack died before he could get home and so can't show people through the wards.
    (Why does Jack live there, anyway? What are his family hiding from? Or did you already say and I need to go back and re-read?)

    1. Yay, more babies! Ryan is actually toddler, but I didn't get any good pics so I'm leaving that for later, when I can do a chapter about what's going on at home. But Iola is pregnant again. Shadow rolled a wish for another baby pretty quickly, so I went ahead with it.
      I was really excited about the SN witches having familiars, ad then was disappointed that all it was was a moodlet. I mean, I guess I didn't expect witches to take the form of their familiars, but I wanted something. So, yeah, I'm doing it my way.

      Jack came pretty close there to going all the way, but he did have the sense to know it was moving too far too fast and that he's nowhere near over Delaney yet. And it is sad that Peridot/Heather is honing in on his insecurities to entrap him. Jack is a lot better person than he thinks he is.

      Not everybody in Drake's Hollow is hiding or running for something. The wards the dragons left on the area had substantially weakened over time, and people did wander in to start a community there, though the leftover wards were enough to make it stay remote, and people get lost in the area rather easily. When the Brannons came, the fairies Moth and Tansy came in to and built up the wards again, so it's more protected now than it has been in generations.

  3. I was on the edge of my seat, lol. Thinking---don't do it Jack! *breaths sigh of relief* I feel so bad for him! I really hope Jack wakes up to the kind of girl Heather is before he gets hurt further. *hugs Jack* Really, he would blame himself if any of the Brannons got hurt because of something he did. Especially since his son is a Brannon!

    I have the same wild fan theories as Becky in regards to Geoffrey/Heather.

    And yay for another Shadow/Iola baby. I can't wait to see what toddler Ryan looks like. :)

    1. I don't think many guys would consider that a girl coming on to them might really be a secret agent in disguise, lol. Poor Jack really just has no clue, and he would just be crushed if h became the unwitting tool that got the Brannons in trouble. He doesn't even know anyone is after them.

      Geoffrey obviously is having some new feelings being stirred up by this operation and Peridot's role in it. Wild fan theories have basis in reality.

      I've looked at Ryan as a YA in CAS, and he's the image of his mother, with Ariel's brown eyes. I'm hoping the next baby will have a blend of features. =D

  4. Iola and Shadow are just so sweet together!
    Peridot moved way too fast there. I'm glad Jack cut her off, this time. Though I'm sure at this rate that there will be another time. Unless Malcom hones in on it and steps in to stop her out of jealousy. Is that what Malcom is all revved up about? Or is he just that anxious to get to Farrell, Aurora and Shadow?
    Oh, Jack. Taking control is never easy, and I so hope he gets a chance to soon.

    1. Shadow and Iola are sweet. I try to give them screen time even when the chapter is largely about the other story.

      Jack did halt the Peridot train at least temporarily. She will try again, of course.

      Geoffrey will have you know that's he's not revved up or anxious about anything. Can't you see how cool as a cucumber he is?

      Jack has finallt decided he wants to take the reins and get control of his life...and he's got MorcuCorp trying to manipulate him.

    2. lol. Tell Geoffrey that even clones with ice blood in their veins should know that a confident man can always walk away. HA! Sorry. I do love the human touch you add to the Landgraab clones ruthlessness. It's why it makes them so deliciously fun to read about.

    3. Thanks! I really do like my characters to have some depth to them. The Landgraab clones do like to project an air of cold, calculated ruthlessness, but inside they are soft fuzzy human beings that just need to be cuddled.

  5. Oh Jack Jack Jack. No, you were not meant for the business you're in. Not with the way you ran your mouth off. I have an extremely bad feeling about this.

    I'm happy Shadow and Iola are expecting again.

    Geoffrey may want more than just a professional relationship with Peridot. With that little tidbit, maybe there's hope for their operation to fall apart at the seams, leaving the Brannons safe.

    1. Jack really isn't much of criminal. But he didn't actually say anything about his line of work or his boss, he had at least that much sense. What he did spill was tons of personal information which he never thought would put anyone in danger. Of course, that's the information MorcuCor wants, they don't care about Cole/Bowman' criminal activities.

      I'm looking forward to seeing Shadow and Iola's next child, too.

      Would Geoffrey let feelings get in the way of the MorcuCorp agenda...stay tuned and find out. ;D

  6. I'm so glad that Jack isn't the man to just jump into the sack with another woman, either to forget about her or as a revenge lay. It makes me sad that he's trying to "improve" and "fix" himself when he really needs no fixing. He just needs to find someone who truly appreciates him and accepts the man he is.

    As for Iola and Shadow, yay for another baby!

    1. Thanks, Heaven! Jack is really not about the revenge lay. It is sad that he feels so incomplete, especially since his quest to fill that emptiness has lead him to Peridot, who is just out to use him, making her worse than Delaney was for him.

      I'm looking forward to seeing Shadow and Iola's new baby too. Now that I've got my Summerdream chapter out, can go play the Brannons and maybe even get that far. Though in game she hasn't got the bump yet, lol.

  7. Squee! More babies! Especially Iola and Shadow babies. They are the cutest couple ever.

    I really feel for Jack. I hope he can get out of the MorcuCorp madness before he gives anything serious away. I'm concerned everyone will have to move. Again!

    1. Thanks, sparkle! I love Shadow and Iola.

      The sad thing about Jack is he has no idea about MorcuCorp or any of that stuff, he's just trying talk to a girl.

  8. I can't wait to see more Shadow and Iola. The cat thing was so cute!

    And Jack's getting suckered pretty easily. This isn't going to end well... although I am curious to get to know more about him and I hope this plotline with him will bring more of that to light. And without getting into too deep trouble :/

    Sorry for the late reply, finally got a chance to breathe this weekend so I'm going to try to catch up on the legacies I'm following and update my own as well.

    1. Thabks, Tsuki! *hugs*
      I know you are busy. And I'm looking forward to seeing the Snows come back.

      I loved doing the cat thing, lol. Poor Jack, he just keeps getting deeper into trouble. But we will get to know more about him in the process.

  9. No, Jack, no! Ignore the pretty blonde! No, no, no!!! She's a fraud! I'm glad he didn't just fall into bed with her, though. He's a better man that Elliot gave him credit for...or he's matured into a better one, anyway.

    You know, Landgraab, if you gave up being a cloney-creep, you could just date Peridot yourself...

    Loved the scene with Shadow and Iola. They are too adorable for words. Hooray for more babies!

    1. Jack was always better than what Elliot thought of him, I think.
      Geoffrey likes being a cloney-creep, lol, but yeah, he's into Peridot, and it' come up at an odd time.

  10. Poor Jack

    Destined to always be a tool T~T

  11. Shadow and Iola continue to be adorable :) ... but where is the vision that shows them that Jack needs them now and he needs them really quick? Jack is going to feel so horrible when this all plays out. I am terrified of what will happen to everyone in that family should Geoffrey get into that town. :(

    1. Yeah, Iola's visions haven't showed her much that would be useful here.

      Jack would be just so broken hearted to learn how he'd been played.