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Unexpected Changes

Chapter Text

“That was an interesting experience,” Gemini said when they came back home. “A facility where you can play, but also eat at the same time. It is usually one or the other. Because of the need for both, I feel that they couldn’t put as much into the food.”

“I think they put something in the food,” Miss Parker complained. “Are you trying to kill me? We don’t have to make the Pretend harder by going to those food and game at the same time places.”

“Wanted to try a family place with a family.” He looked toward Gemini. “What do you think?”

“Well, I think most kids try to play as much as they can, and other kids being there makes it beneficial. Also, a lot of grownups don’t like to deal with children personally in nicer places, so for them, it’s a great way to let them legally run off and play without worrying about them.”

“It was fun,” Debbie simply said. “Good pizza, Jarod, thanks.”

“Succinct yet simple.” Jarod gestured to her to Gemini. “It’s trickier than it looks. I still have problems with it sometimes.”

“You’re right, Dad. I’ll get there,” Gemini said.

Jarod wasn’t worried about him. It was easy to get Gemini to Pretend well. He became the role. Brother to Debbie, son to him. He didn’t drop it. Miss Parker and Debbie, on the other hand, we’re still taking time to get it right.

And when they did, the Pretending stopped as soon as the doors were closed. House doors or car doors. It was a more open neighborhood, they all needed to be careful. Gemini only fell out of the role when he became a scientist and helped to find a better cure for Debbie, but then he slid right back into it.

But Miss Parker and Debbie. Yeah. It didn’t completely work


“Oh, look at you, what, eight months?” A woman asked randomly to Miss Parker.

“Six months,” she answered with a slightly sharp tone. Debbie and Gemini had been on arcade games right next to them.

“Oh, well I hope you enjoy the adventure of parenting all over again, Missy,” the person said.

“Don’t call her that,” Debbie said next to her. “Only her special someone called her that, you shouldn’t call her that.”

“Huh? I don’t understand?” She gestured between Jarod and Miss Parker.

Jarod quickly grabbed Miss Parker’s hand. “Come on, Missy, let’s see if the pizza is ready.”

Miss Parker’s entire body froze like steel against him. “Yes,” she seethed. “Lets.”



Pretending for those not trained to do what him and Gemini could do? It was tough. It felt like second nature to pick something up, learn it, and do it.

Speaking of doing it. “You guys can stay up for one more hour, then it’s bedtime. Your mom and dad have some things to discuss.” Gemini and Debbie both sat on the couch. Gemini grabbed the remote and turned on the TV.

“What?” Debbie complained and tried to take the remote. “We’re not watching this.”

“It’s a very interesting documentary over how animals-“

“I’m not watching animals kill each other.” Debbie tried to take the remote, while Gemini kept it and didn’t change the channel. He played his role just fine, and he was making Debbie get into hers, whether she liked it or not.

“Come, dear,” Jarod said to Miss Parker. “Up to the bedroom. Let’s go talk about something.”

“Well, all kinds of fun if the discussion is in the bedroom,” she teased him. She smiled down at the kids. “Hour, Debbie. You need me to come say goodnight to you?”

We can say goodnight.” Jarod gestured his head upstairs. “Let’s go.” Up the stairs, they went into their bedrooms.

“More talking,” Miss Parker said as she went on the bed. “Debbie’s not a Pretender and she knows how I feel about that name. You can’t expect her to be perfect.”

“Oh. It’s not about that.” Jarod closed the door. “Night time is the perfect time to get some things done. Things not involving kids. Things involving . . .” He pulled his DSA case from beneath the bed and plopped it on the top. “His and Her lifetime DSA Cases.”

“And people think they are fancy with His and Her towels,” Miss Parker said to him. “What about the DSA cases?”

“Ethan said to compare them,” Jarod said. “What your mother said, in those papers, this might be what it’s about. ‘By a trick of the heart, the eyes cannot know’.” He patted his case. “Come on honey, get in bed. Let’s see what kind of action we can stir up.” She wasn’t quick to move. “Ethan’s usually on the ball,” Jarod reminded her.

She gave a deep sigh, went and got her DSA case. “This is a great deal of my entire life, Jarod. I don’t even know specifically what’s on here.”

“I know the feeling,” Jarod admitted as he touched his DSA gently. He opened it up and faced it toward her. “We’ll be fair. You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine. Deal?”

She was thinking for about a minute before she turned her DSA case around and opened it for him. She grabbed a specific DSA, like she knew exactly what she was looking for. She looked at it, flipping the tiny disc between her fingers a few times before setting it in. “Memory road is bumpy. Are you sure about this, Jarod?”

“Yes,” he said. “Pop it in.”

“Fine,” she said curtly. “Don’t believe me about your sanity line?” She hit play. “Here it is.”


Start of DSA

Young Miss Parker came toward Young Jarod’s room. She used her father’s key to open the door. “Hi, Jarod.”

Young Jarod looked up from his chair and table where he was working. “Oh. Good morning, Miss Parker.”

“Whatcha doin?” She came round to see him.


“Like I didn’t see that coming,” she chuckled. “Do you want to do something?”

Jarod sighed and looked at his papers. “I probably shouldn’t. They’ve been wanting me to analyze all these cases. I’ve done nothing but this for the past two months.” He looked at her. “What’s wrong?”

“Well. Mister Raines,” she said slowly. She looked like she was about to cry, but shook her head. “So, do you want to do something?”

Jarod got up. “I’m concerned, Miss Parker. You have a terrible feeling in all of your gestures, in your voice, and your eyes. Everything’s wrong.”

“It’s okay.” She smiled at him sweetly. “As long as I’ve got a friend, I’ll be fine. So?”

“Okay.” Jarod stood up. “What do you want to do?”

“We could run around in the tunnels?” she recommended. “Sydney’s gone this week. I overheard Raines say that when I was dealing with the treatments. Come on, let’s go. Maybe we’ll even run into Angelo?”

“Yeah. Sounds good, Miss Parker. Let’s go.” Jarod and Miss Parker left the room. Darkness. Next camera. Darkness. Miss Parker stooped and crawled through the tunnels. Darkness. Miss Parker crawled past another camera. The same thing repeated for a good five minutes. “Jarod?” She looked behind her. Then, someone grabbed her roughly by her leg. “Ow!” Miss Parker kicked slightly then her eyes went wide. “Jarod, what are you doing?” His hand appeared out of the camera angle. “Hey, you can’t grab me like that.”

“Shutup, perp,” Jarod said. “Your days of committing crimes are all over. I’m bringing you in.”

“Jarod, let go.” He dragged her roughly through the tunnels until he kicked one open. “Why are you being a jerk?” His strength, even at that age, was as tip top as his mind. “Jarod, I don’t wanna play cops and robbers.”

He pushed her through the open tunnel. “Whoah!” She landed on a table. She wailed a little from the pain.

Jarod came back over to her.

“You okay?” he said.

“Yeah.” She got up and moved her feet. “Don’t do that again.”

“I’m sorry. I was concerned.” He looked at the tunnel above. “I’m someplace I shouldn’t be. I need to get back.” He headed back up the tunnel. She propped herself up the tunnel to. “That was weird,” she said aloud to herself. “I didn’t say I wanted to play cops and robbers.” After walking for a few minutes, Jarod came behind her again. He yanked her hands behind her back and slapped handcuffs on her.

“Jarod, what are you doing? Stop it.”

“You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” He kept pushing her forward.

“This isn’t funny. Where’d you get these from? Where are you taking me?” Miss Parker kept trundling through camera after camera. “Jarod, answer me!”

“Don’t threaten a police officer or you’ll land yourself in even more trouble.” He pushed her ahead harder.

“Throw the perpetrator over here, officer.”

Miss Parker cried as she was pushed on the ground. A cigarette butt landed beside her. “Mister Raines?”

“Officer. I am your superior. The keys to the cuffs.” Raines held out his hand toward Jarod. “Go back to headquarters. I’ll take care of things here.” Jarod walked out of the camera.

Raines brought her up, turned her around and undid her cuffs. “What have we learned today?”

Miss Parker. “Jarod. He . . .”

“Say it,” Raines insisted. “Or you can keep these on, I can call him back, and he’ll play bad cop with you.”

Miss Parker bit her lip. “Pretenders . . . are dangerous.”

“Damn right they are. You are not going to see that boy unless your father tells you to. Next time, he’s likely to kill you. When he’s been studying something too long, his mind can’t function right. Outside of his confinement, he will go crazy.”


End of DSA


Miss Parker took the DSA disc out of the player. “Well, Jarod? I’m waiting.”


“I.” Jarod couldn’t believe what he just saw. He didn’t remember any of it. What happened? “Someone trapped me.” Jarod looked toward her. “I’m not unstable.” How did he get that deep? He found the exact same date, and played his version for her. “This is what I have.”

There she was. She came in. Studying excuse. She moved ahead of him. Jarod was putting his things away, when Mister Raines came in, insisting on a quick Sim. A cop and a fugitive. While he was doing the Sim, the DSA ended. “Raines trapped me somehow, psychologically, in a Sim. My mind was trapped, and it couldn’t get out. I’d been studying for weeks, over the same thing. It’s the same reasoning behind my isolation times,” he said.

“Just don’t go to deep, and don’t lose track of who you are,” She said. “If you do, especially around Debbie, it won’t be pretty.” She pulled out her gun she always acquired from somewhere and petted it. “I’m ready for anything. I always have been, Jarod.”

“Just. Watch again.” He played his part for her on his own DSA player again. “That’s what I have. That’s all I have, but that’s not even what I remember. You were colder. You’d been hurting other kids around The Centre.”

“Hm?” It was like she completely forgot. “Oh. That was daddy,” she said. “From the way Sydney acted, he knows it now.” She made a funny sound with her mouth, a slight pop. “I was a Parker growing up and I wasn’t strong enough. He thought making people scared of me would start heightening my reputation. Then, he put me on treatment.”

“He didn’t do it,” Jarod said. Her memories were mixed up too?  “I’m not the only one mixed up, am I? Watch your own treatments. They were all by Raines. Your dad didn’t come in until the very end, and he stopped it. Stopped it cold.”

“Raines?” Miss Parker asked. “Not, daddy?”

“No.” He tried to scoot closer, wishing they had started their cases beside each other and not in front, in enemy positions. “I’m not dangerous. That doesn’t happen. Hemade it happen.”

She went quiet and stuck a fingernail in her mouth.

“Pretenders are dangerous.” Jarod couldn’t deny it. He had pulled her. He had pushed her. Roughly handcuffed her. “When triggered wrong. It’s not easy to do what Raines just did. Sydney had been gone a time, I remember that. Only someone like Sydney or Raines, who had experience with the mind and Pretenders, could pull that off.”

“It’s . . . difficult?” She eyed him. “How difficult?”


“So.” She looked down at her DSA case. “Gemini will really be fine too?”


“And . . .” She looked down toward her stomach. “If they are like you-“

“They’ll be fine too, I promise.” After seeing that DSA, all he wanted to do was touch her. Make gentle, physical contact to make her see. “The real me, would never hurt you.”

She didn’t respond.

 “ . . . did you ever tell Sydney?” Jarod asked her. “That I started to think I was a real cop and couldn’t get out of it?”

“Sure. But what do you expect? I just had ‘an overactive imagination’ and ‘Jarod could never do anything wrong’. If anything, it was just ‘rough play for a girl’. It was all cruel lies from the vicious Miss Parker.” Miss Parker moved her feet around. “Just be careful, Jarod, you’ve got kids here now.”

“I . . . I never meant to hurt you.”

“Jarod, you never hurt me. You barely pushed or pulled,” she said. “Scariest thing was the handcuffs but even that wasn’t anywhere near . . .” She hesitated. “But, if you lose yourself to a role, there’s no telling what you could do. That’s why, when we get this figured all out, you should make life easier and just-”

Not The Centre,” Jarod insisted. “I keep control. You’ve seen how it works by now. For six years.”

“The solitary days.” She seemed to be coming around. Slowly. “Are you sure?”

“It can’t happen. It won’t happen.” He reached for his phone. Maybe Sydney was back by now. Worst case scenario, one of the new hunters answered it and he hung up.


Broots. “Is Sydney there at all yet?”

“He and Angelo are gone. H-how’s Debbie?”

“Doing great,” Jarod said. “Miss Parker’s here. Having a ball.”

“Oh, thank goodness.”

Jarod couldn’t miss the relief in his voice. “I can’t go out of my mind, Broots, I know who I am. What Miss Parker told you, it was something done to my mind by Raines that can’t happen again. Ever. Debbie is safe with me, I swear it.”

“Oh. That’s really good to hear!” Complete, absolute relief. “Is she there?”

“It’s almost bedtime, but yeah, she’s here,” Jarod said. “Not long, Broots, this phone shouldn’t even exist anymore.”

“Yeah, I know. I stole it. I’m in a park, unfollowed. Um. Where is she? No, no, wait! Don’t tell me. Uh. Just. She’s nowhere bad?”

“Nowhere bad at all, Mister Broots,” Jarod said. “We are all fine. Hang on, I’ll get her for you.”

He looked at Miss Parker. Still on edge. Was that the only time that happened? “I’ll be back, Miss Parker. I need to let Debbie talk to her real father for a bit.”

“Fine.” Her voice was brisque. “Probably head to bed too. No reason to stay up.” She grabbed her DSA case and put it back underneath the bed.

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for what happened,” he tried again.

Why would The Centre care to do that? If they wanted them split, they could have just taken Miss Parker’s access key to his room away. Why go through that much trouble?


Miss Parker waited in the bed, trying to sleep. I miss that voice. I need that extra voice right now. Just saying ‘Jarod’s a friend’ or ‘he’s telling the truth’ or . . . telling me to make a Sundae party for him. She wanted to turn in bed, but her body wasn’t letting her. She was stuck on her back. That innocent voice. That believed . . .

///”It’s okay, it’s okay, Sydney will come. I swear it, soon. Kri Kraw Toads Foot, Geese Walk, Bare Foot.Um. Does that help? Miss Parker? Please?”///

 Jarod was playing a dangerous game with her. With his reaction just from the cops and robbers incident.

This was going to be a tough ride. She already knew it. If she had it.



The next night . . .


Miss Parker didn’t like it. She was fidgeting all over. Jarod could see it clear as day. “Do we really have to do this?”

“From what I saw last night? Yes,” Jarod insisted. This time, they were opening their cases on the same side of the bed. Miss Parker was finicky to touch. If something happened, he wanted to be right beside her. “Pick a date.”

“I don’t know which date,” she said.

“Okay. Let’s try . . .” he lifted his DSA. “Middle fourteen.” Her expression. “Did you look at the focus treatments?”

“Some,” she said softly. “It was long-term, I can’t watch all of it that fast for you.”

“Well, what you did watch? Is that what you-“

“Yes,” she said just as fast. “Sort of.”

“Sort of. Isn’t the same as a yes,” Jarod said. He showed her a disc. “This one?”

“Jarod. I haven’t watched these,” she said. “I watched . . . better times,” she admitted. “Mostly my mother. I didn’t want to watch the later dates.” She looked around the room, like someone may come in.

Jarod shrugged. “We’ll both be surprised then. I’ll go first.” He slid in the DSA. He skipped ahead through a sim. Another sim. Another sim. There was always a lot of useless data on DSA’s. Another sim. Wait. “Can I ask you something?”

“Fire away,” she asked.

“Why did you watch me, but not come see me at times?” Jarod asked. “Watching me behind the veil.” Not a Sim. What was that? “Lunch with Sydney?” He looked at the date, so he knew where to pair Miss Parker at. “I remember that. I always thought that was odd.” He hit play.


Start of DSA


“This is really neat, eating together,” Young Jarod said. “Aren’t you going to eat Sydney?”

“No, Jarod.” Sydney scooted his lunch away. “I don’t like it.”

“Your food?” Young Jarod asked as he gestured toward the bag. “But, you can eat whatever you want.”

“No, I don’t like the fact that I have to be here,” Sydney answered. “All staff were demanded to stay in the same place for lunch.” He stroked his bottom lip.

“I think it’s great,” Young Jarod smiled at him.

“Yes, Jarod. It’s an interesting experience.” He sighed. “Why don’t I eat what you’re eating?”

“Oh. Sure,” Jarod said. “But, why? Can I not even see regular food in real life that everyone else eats?”

“There’s no need to do that,” Sydney insisted. “Let’s just enjoy lunch, hm?”


End of DSA


“Why was Sydney eating with you?” She asked the same question.

“I don’t know. Between my sims, some parts never made sense.” He stared at it. “Your DSA’s were divided by cameras. Mine was just that room.” He tapped almost on the screen. “A lot of time between was useless. Sitting for hours. Standing for hours. Reading manuals for hours.” He sighed. “You’re turn.”

“Yeah.” She looked at her own DSA. “Let’s see if I have something besides eating.” She slid it in and skipped across until she came to the same date and time that paired with Jarod.

It could be nothing. It could just be her walking around. It could be a complete waste of time. Or it could be something that she didn’t want to see. She didn’t always make it back to the glass.


Start of DSA


“Sydney! Sydney!” Young Miss Parker called, terrified, running from camera to camera down the halls. She ran to the elevator so fast, she slid inside slightly, grabbing the side before tumbling. She started to bang hard on the floor that led to Sydney and Jarod. Before the doors closed though, she was seized.

By someone else. By different hands.

Pause DSA

“Who the hell is that?!” She pointed to the DSA. “That is not pruney faces, old or young.”

“Triumvirate muscle,” Jarod said.

Start DSA

“Let go, let go! Sydney!” Miss Parker yelled again. “Sydney, Sydney!”

Pause DSA

“Why wasn’t I calling for my father?” Miss Parker said, about as surprised at the DSA as Jarod had been. “Where the hell was my father? Where the hell were the sweepers, why was I trying to reach Sydney back then before-”

She went quiet. “Before?” Jarod asked. “Before what?”

She ignored him, hit stop, and moved back further in the disc. She hit play again.

Start DSA

Miss Parker was sitting in her treatment chair. She knew that chair well. There was a barking the distance, but she didn’t show signs of fearing whatever was behind the Office door.

“Excellent,” Raines said from in front of her. “You are doing well.”

Then, the door was pulled open.

Raines stood up quickly and approached them. “Mutumbo. Adama. It’s a pleasure to see you, but this is quite abrupt.”

They moved past Raines toward Miss Parker.

“Her focus treatments?”

“Are doing nicely,” Raines said.

Miss Parker met their eyes. “Parker is power. Attitude is power. Family is power. Emotions are weak. Feelings are weak. Pretenders are dangerous. Secrets are dangerous.”

“Parker . . . is power?” Mutumbo said, looking toward Raines. “That is not the word for our treatments!”

“The Parkers run The Centre.”

“By our good graces!” Mutumbo shouted. He grabbed Miss Parker. She still didn’t blink. “How many times was this used?”

“Over 200 times,” Raines said. “She was far from ready. Mister Parker stopped them but it should be enough to run The Centre in the future.”

“Why was she far from ready?” Mutumbo held her arm up like an outstretched vegetable. She started to kick to get away. “Let’s test her focus.”

“Her focus is good enough. Mutumbo, her focus is good!” Raines complained again.

“There are other Parkers,” Mutumbo said. “We will test her. See what her mind tells her to do. Bring it in!”

Raines moved back as a large lion was brought into the room.

Pause DSA

“There was a lion in that room?” Jarod blinked. He looked toward Miss Parker that was starting to fidget.

“Oh, yes,” she said a low whisper. “I remember why Sydney was eating with you,” she said softly. “All of Centre staff had to stay in their offices and out of hallways.”

Start DSA

Miss Parker looked toward Mutumbo.

“Go ahead,” he said. “All The Centre staff has been commanded to stay in their offices and out of hallways, or they are fired. Immediately.”

Miss Parker’s breathing was fast as she stared at the lion.

“Focus is about getting to the solution, finding the solution, no matter what the problem is.” Mutumbo patted the lion. “If you find the answer, my lion will be called off. You have a one minute head start to get to the answer to this question.” He bent down toward her. “Who is the best psychiatrist in The Centre? Sixty. . . fifty nine . . .”

Miss Parker’s voice caught. “Sydney!” She managed to screech.

“ . . . fifty eight . . .”

“Go, run to the answer!” Raines told her. “And run fast, your life depends on it!”

Miss Parker took off out of the office as fast as she could. She hit the elevators.

 “Sydney! Sydney!” Young Miss Parker called, terrified, running from camera to camera down the halls. She ran to the elevator so fast, she slid inside slightly, grabbing the side before tumbling. She started to bang hard on the floor that led to Sydney and Jarod. Before the doors closed though, she was seized.

The camera switched again as a Triumvirate member flung her out of the elevator.

“If the lion can’t get there, it’s cheating! Stairs!”

Miss Parker opened the steps and ran down the stairs as fast as she could. Then, when she reached the almost last floor, she jumped down and grabbed the door as fast as she could. “Open, open!” She quickly grabbed her key, looked up, and anxiously swiped the card, shutting the door behind her. “Sydney!” She screamed. She ran, but another Triumvirate grabbed her key.

“No blocking the lion with doors.”

Miss Parker started walking backwards slowly as the man opened it. He tossed her key to the floor. She made a quick grab for it, turned around and started to run again. The door was unlocked and it flew open.

Darkness. Camera switch. Darkness. Camera switch. “Wait, wait!” Miss Parker stopped. She looked behind her in fear, and started to run down the left path. “Sydney!” She screamed as she heard it slam right into the door she was just at.

She ran and leapt up into The Centre’s cafeteria room. She ran across the tables as it tore through, and she opened a cafeteria door and, this time, pretended to seal it shut.

“The lion can’t go in here,” someone else said from the Triumvirate. “It must stay fair.”

Miss Parker backed up, looking around. Single room. When the Triumvirate person grabbed her key again to unlock the door, the door exploded open, and the man screamed as he was caught beneath it.

Pause in DSA


Jarod winced and looked away. “Why didn’t you ever tell me about this?!” The lion was eating the Triumvirate man’s liver. If he had zero experience with the insides of the human body, his gag reflex would be fully going off. Watching the carnage, it still almost wanted to.


Start of DSA


Young Miss Parker watched the act before looking around. Seeing a vent, she climbed on the counters and proceeded to escape through them. She was slower, and injuries were setting in, the adrenaline was calming down and it was apparent she was hurt. She punched her way into the location she needed. She dropped to the floor, not far from Jarod’s room. “Sydney.” Her adrenaline, her mind, it was all gone. She got up off the floor, and tried to run there.

Mutumbo and Adama were right there, right before the entrance.

“Okay, Miss Parker. You are fine with us. For now.”


End of DSA


“They . . . trained a lion . . .” Jarod didn’t even know how to say it.

“My DSA wins for most action-packed of the day,” Miss Parker said. “You eating with Sydney, and me watching someone being eaten. Are we ready to call it a day?”

“They.” Jarod held his hands out. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He looked at his own DSA at the date. “We were still friends back then. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Why?” Miss Parker asked. She groaned. “You had your own problems, like, you know, not having a life.” She got up. “I’m tired.”

“After watching you outrun an African lion inside The Centre, I bet you feel exhausted.” He glared at her.

“What’s with the glare? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“You didn’t tell me.” He gestured to the DSA case. “We were friends. You should have told me you were outrunning a lion. Fourteen years old, African lion. Do you know how lucky you are that you weren’t killed?!”

“I kept my focus,” Miss Parker said. “I knew if I closed another door, I would be safe. I tried that at the end of the stairs. I knew if I locked it though from the previous experience, they would simply unlock it.” She shrugged. “Sorry but I didn’t feel like dying. I was fourteen years old, limited experience with lions, and all I wanted to do was live, so don’t start in on me!”

What? Jarod sighed. “I’m not mad at you for getting that guy killed on purpose.” He shook his head. “I’m mad that you didn’t come to me and tell me.”

Wait. That look. That flinch. “Did you tell me?” Oh, that fidgeting reaction. She glanced away towards a curtain. Nothing interesting in a random curtain, except a direction to look at. “When did you tell me, I want to see it.” He put his hands on her DSA player to move it forward.

“Stop, don’t. Jarod,” she scolded him trying to move his hand away from her DSA Player. “My case, my life.”

“If you told me and I don’t remember, then it’s my life too on there,” he said seriously. “I want to see it.” Her eyes, they were burning with no so hard, she didn’t even need to say it. “How do you have something of me that’s not on my DSA’s?”

She licked the bottom of her lip and then bit it. “No.”

“Yes,” he said with the same kind of conviction. “My life. Something was erased. Again,” His lip curled. “I want to know. I have the right to know!”

“Okay, fine, whatever big brave boy!” Miss Parker yelled at him. “You want to see it, you got it,” she sneered. “But I’m not watching. I’ve already got it engraved in my mind.”

“Things aren’t always the same as on the DSA,” Jarod warned her.

“This one is.” She held her hands out for keys. Jarod reached in his pocket and gave her some.

“Don’t do anything bad,” Jarod warned her.

“You mean don’t go hump Elvis on the strip?” She teased him as she took them. “I’ll be fine. I just need a drink after this night.”

What?! “Parker, I-I shouldn’t even-“

“Milkshake,” she said. “Testy much?” She sighed. “I don’t want to hear about it, Jarod, when I get back, and only a few minutes. Go anymore than a few and I’ll shoot you.” She took off out of the room.


Jarod sat back down. She was hiding her feelings behind her antagonism. She did that a lot, but he knew whatever he wanted to see was not going to be an easy thing.