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Author's Chapter Notes:
I know it has been FOREVER since I updated and I apologise. Real life is just so annoying sometimes and also I have spent far too much time launching my Pretender website. Hopefully some more chapters will follow and I can actually complete this story (if anybody is even interested any more... lol)
There is one universal constant throughout the universe, which turned out to be a rather good thing for me. Security, and sweepers in particular, are of less than average intelligence, and dear old Sam was no exception.

Despite all my best laid plans, what I hadn’t factored into my little scenario was the vending machine that went by the name Sam. Well, of course I had thought about the likelihood of Miss Parker bringing a phalanx of sweepers, but since she had turned up very much alone, how was I supposed to know Sam might just be happening by? Talk about bad luck. Who would have thought that the cockroaches would venture so far from home and out into the daylight?

I felt his gun in by back before I even knew he was there. I can only put my sudden and unusual lapse in attention down to the intoxicating presence of Miss Parker. There he was though, telling me in his gruff voice to freeze. How original.

I was almost tempted to ask him if he had to practice to get his voice that way or was it a defect of some sort. Keeping my mouth shut, I watched as Miss Parker relaxed, her grin turning triumphant. I could actually see her eyes harden, moving from the confusion she must have experienced, me catching her so off balance and all, to resentment that she had allowed herself to be caught out like that. She was not a woman you wanted to cross, that much was now perfectly clear to me. Which of course only made me more interested. Easy prey was not really worth my time, she might prove an interesting diversion.

“You shouldn’t have come Jarod. Now it’s time to go home.” She said those words with such satisfaction and I knew that my kiss had rattled her more than she would admit to herself. That just made me want to melt the ice–queen even more. Was this her secret fantasy, one she kept so deeply buried she didn’t even know it was there? Of course, now I had this added irritation and time for that kind of speculation would have to wait. Her gun in my chest and Vending Machine’s in my back and the time for dallying was most certainly over.

A lesser man might have given up, and I wondered if Jarod would have, or found some ingenious way out. Perhaps he might have tried appealing to her softer nature, drag up their past, their friendship. I suspect though that that friendship was a little more one–sided than Jarod probably hoped, judging by the look in her eyes. What a sap. He seemed so drawn to lost causes. One thing was certain, I was not a lesser man, nor was I stupid enough to think she was going to just let me toddle off on my way even after that kiss.

Now, this is where that universal constant came in very handy. Ignoring her ranting about going home and getting what I deserved yada yada yada, I grabbed Miss Parker’s gun with one hand. You know one should really instruct her never get close enough to your quarry to enable them to touch you. That is a fundamental principle after all. So, I had possession of her gun again and with the other, I spun around and had broken the Vending Machine’s thumb before he knew what had hit him.

His grunts of surprise and pain were very satisfying and hoped that it taught him a valuable lesson about interfering with my plans. I briefly thought about killing him, which I could have done with my bare hands, being an expert at many forms of the marital arts and self defence. I doubted Jarod would have done that though, so I had to restrain myself, not wanting to give the game away too soon. The dear old shrink might put it together a little too quickly if I behaved too outrageously and that simply would not do.

Besides, it might be just as much fun to see what Parker did to him at such a gross dereliction of his duties. Would she foist the blame on him to avoid any nastiness herself? It would be intriguing to see how it all unfolded.

With both guns in my possession, the immediate danger neutralised, I risked one last kiss. Time was short and the old man was closing the distance. I would be lying if I said it was only to give the shrink something to ponder over, or if poor Sam was with it enough to notice. That should cause her some small trouble explaining away. I mean, letting Jarod slip through her fingers was as much her fault as his after all. Mostly though, I just wanted to, the rest was a bonus, laying the groundwork for Mr Lyle to prove her complicity, if that was what he wanted. Grabbing her, smiling to myself at the shocked look on her face, she didn’t think Jarod boy had THAT in him, I kissed her brutally, nothing tender or gentle this time. I think she preferred it too.

Pulling away from her, disarming her gun and tossing it back in one fluid motion, I had to chuckle at the look of pure shock on her face. “Talk soon Miss Parker.” I said before I took off. I kept the Vending Machine’s gun, as a souvenir, and a little extra protection never hurt. I paid no attention to her threats and promises of the nasty things she was going to do to me, I mean Jarod, as I scooted across the immaculately kept lawn to the motorbike waiting for me. Despite the glitch in my plan, I was glad I had prepared for a hasty retreat.

It certainly had been a less than impressive start and I should have factored the sweeper’s random appearance in. It was very unsettling for things to go this wrong this early in an assignment and I would have to be far more careful from now on.

It is true, not even someone with my staggering intellect can account for every single detail, and it made me realise just how sloppy I had let myself become. Becoming emotionally involved went against every second of training I had ever had. I was NOT Jarod, my training was far superior to his and this should not have happened. I had SIMed him of course and now I had to question if I had allowed some of his psyche and ineptitude bleed off into mine. Now there was truly a disturbing thought.

I blame Jarod for this completely, his very presence throwing my performance out of whack. It had very well nearly turned into quite the disaster. Still I managed to escape, as predicted, leaving them all in a flutter about Jarod's aberrant behaviour.

One had to wonder though why Jarod just hadn’t reached out and taken what he wanted. Was he too scared? It certainly was intriguing and I wondered if it might be worth organising a conversation with the shrink to get his thoughts on the matter. But see, here I go again, getting all distracted. This simply will not do.

The conferences would start and an email would be sent, and of course our hero would ride in to see just what was going on. Perhaps I might call Miss Parker tonight. I wonder if she would welcome the call, would she be waiting for it, lying in that big bed, all alone in a little teddy?

Now it was a waiting game. I entertained myself by replaying the afternoon in my mind, my perfect memory able to focus on the tiniest detail and I don’t really need to tell you what I was focusing on now do I? Her lips had been soft, softer than her eyes, her perfume almost overwhelming. She was a beautiful woman, of that there was no doubt, but not beautiful enough to risk freedom over surely, or to moon about for 20 years. Plenty of fish in the ocean after all, that were as easy on the eyes and certainly more easy on the soul than this one.

Yanked out of my reverie by the computer kindly telling me the old man had sent off an email, right on schedule. Now all I needed was for the Pretender to read it and I would have him. Well not yet, but it would be a very good start. It was all so predictable. Jarod I am worried about you, Jarod why are you taking such a terrible risk? Jarod, what were you thinking?

It really was too bad I couldn’t hack past their pathetic security and hook into their live DSA surveillance feed, but the drain on the bandwidth would be noticeable even to the monkeys they had running their server. Still it would have been fun to peek in. Would Miss Parker talk about her little adventure, and how would she explain losing Jarod yet again? So many unanswered questions. I have never had a mission that was so titillating before.

Perhaps once I gave them Jarod I might stay here for a little while, there were many interesting things to pursue after all. I am sure a little reward would be in order, and who knows I might even find something to tell them to let me stretch it out. See, there I go again thinking all kinds of rebellious thought.

I am getting ahead of myself yet again. It seems to be a nasty habit I have developed lately. This burning sense of anticipation is making me lose my edge. Right now I need to be at the top of my game, and as this afternoon clearly demonstrated, I am certainly not. Jarod, despite his flaws and inferior training might just be able to best me if I am not a little more careful.

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