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Disclaimer: All characters and events in this story are fictitious, and any similarity to a real person, living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintended by the author. "The Pretender" is a protected trademark.

Sleepyhead + 4 



“You did well, Angel. I knew you could do it.”

She smiled and leaned in as he kissed her on her cheek, his eyes cold and proud. Cold. She wondered why she had never noticed it before. That same lack of emotion regarding anything that happened to her.  

She took another gulp of the fiery liquid, slamming the glass down on the counter and indicated to the barman for a refill. 

“Daddy, I want you to honor our agreement.” 

She stared blurry-eyed at the mirror across her. Why bars had mirrors was one of life’s little mysteries. How many people really wanted to see themselves getting drunk?

She snorted in a very unladylike manner as she lifted the drink to herself, gave a nod and then downed the next glass. 

“Now Angel, I thought a celebration should be in order. Why don’t we talk about this later?” 

A body touched her and she turned her head. Black hair, brown eyes and a leering smile. He leaned in and said, what he thought must have been his sexy voice, “Need a shoulder, honey?” 

She stared and then a predatory smile centered itself on her face. Turning her stool, she touched his knee seductively. 

“Is that the best line you’ve got?” 

His eyes widened slightly and his sneer increased. Whiskey breathed across the space between them and she could see the gears click in his inebriated brain as her hand crept higher. 

“You want to leave?” 

Her eyes darkened slightly. “Not yet, sport.” 

He swallowed, looking down at her hand. She had him firmly, uncomfortably. She squeezed and he squeaked. Pain flared and he hunched over, grabbing for the spot.  


He nodded frantically and she let go, hearing him stumble away as she downed the next shot. 

“No, daddy. I want to talk about this now. You promised.” 

Her father had given his usual grimace before turning away from her. She must have been an idiot. She could see Jarod with her in that room, his usual – I win and you lose - smirk on his face. She wondered for the nth power why she ever really believed that the strings that attached her to him and the Centre would ever be cut.  

Her eyes burned and something tickled at the back of her throat. Ignoring it, she stared at the honey-colored drink before her.  


He had turned back to her and had taken her hands. His eyes were still cold but something else had been added. She couldn’t quite place her finger on it. She could see the smirk on Jarod’s imaginary face widen and his eyebrows rise. He leaned against the wall, waiting for Daddy’s next remark. If she had an imaginary gun she would have placed the bullet where it would have wiped that smirk right off.  

“I need to protect you. I can only do that with you by my side.” 

She shifted on the stool, trying to ease the muscle soreness. The cactus in her throat sharpened and she swallowed reflexively. Taking a small sip this time, it cooled the burn as it spilled down her throat. The bar felt hot and she wondered why the air conditioner wasn’t working. 

“Daddy, it’s time I started my own life. There are things I need to do.”

The look her father had given her was the complete opposite of Jarod’s. His was of irritation and indulgence while the lab rat had a – I told you so – smile. Even down somewhere in the depths of this hell and he was still in her mind, directing her actions just like her father.  

He had given his trade mark smile, the wrinkles stretching in the crows when he said, “Why don’t you take a nice long holiday and we’ll talk about this when you get back.” 

And she had agreed. Like the good little puppet she was. He had pulled the strings and she had danced. She wondered briefly if she never returned from her holiday if her father would notice. Then again. She would probably have company in the form of a sweeper or two while she burned her skin to a crisp on a beach somewhere. 

Her throat tickled and she let out a sneeze. She wiped her nose with a hand that burned, eyeing the snot covered drink in front of her. Her body ached from somewhere deep inside her muscles, leaving her feeling weakened. Her eyes felt bright and teary and she couldn’t get rid of the frog in her throat. Laying her head onto her arms, she closed her eyes.  

She felt awful and it wasn’t just the emerging backlash of a killer hangover she thought she’d have tomorrow.  

This was something more. 

Her chest constricted and a cough was ripped from her body. She wheezed in oxygen afterwards before she stumbled from the chair towards the bathroom.

Her stomach was queasy and she barely made it before she brought up all the alcohol she had consumed.  She didn’t feel any better afterwards. 

She stared in the cracked and dirt smeared mirror of the restroom that broke her face in two. A jagged, meandering line that didn’t help with her image. 

She looked like hell.  

She felt like hell and then another face materialized right next to hers. It had to be wonder boy’s.  

A knowing look in his eyes as he gazed at her through the one way glass. Something clicked and she remembered the reason why she had been able to finally catch him. 

Damn him.  

If she had the energy she would have cheered Lyle on while he did his version of re-education on Jarod. She thought of a not so nice phrase, a word her mother would have washed out of her mouth with soap. The strong, harsh kind. 

She had Jarod’s flu.

Chapter End Notes:
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