To Catch A Cheat Part 3
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"Ms. Brooks, are you ready?" The pretty blond journalist stood at the kitchen doorway and smiled at Amy. Marissa had already forgotten the woman's name, probably due to her nervousness, but she didn't want to ask her to repeat it. She'd find out when the article ran anyway.
"I won't be long," Amy told Bo, "and then I'll come find you at the playground."
"Okay," the toddler said, appeased. "You ready to go?" he asked Candi, while his mother turned her attention to the reporter.
Marissa waited for the kitchen door to close, then held up a hand to stop Candi's exit at the door. "What's her name? The reporter, I mean," she whispered.
"Vivian," Candi said. "Vivian Moore, I believe."
"What did she ask?"
Candi placed a hand on Bo's small back. "Tell you what, let your daddy help you get some of your toy trucks together so we can take them with us and play in the sandbox. When you get done, I'll be ready to go."
"You may need this when you get to the playground," Landon said, grabbing Petie's leash from a hook by the door and handing it to Candi. "And I'll go get Bo's toys together."
"Thanks." Candi waited for them to leave, then listened for the voices beyond the kitchen door. After she heard Amy talking, she quietly told Marissa, "She asked about my job, then about how the webzine got started, where we came up with the idea for AtlantaTellAll, then TheGuyCheats, that kind of thing. Naturally, she asked about my history with cheaters," she added.
Candi shrugged. "I told her the truth, that I've only had one guy that cheated on me, but he did it repeatedly, and unfortunately, we were married at the time. Basically, I told her that Cal was listed in our cheater database and that she could read all about him there. I hope she writes about him, and I hope he sees it," she said. "Shoot, I hope everyone he knows sees it. It'll serve him right."
"Yeah," Marissa said, thinking about the guys she had personally listed on the site. "It'll serve them all right."
"I've got my toys!" Bo called, his little-boy voice echoing from his yard. "Ready to go?"
"I'm ready," Candi called through the open doorway. "Come on, Petie."
Petie lifted his head from his water bowl in the kitchen and, seeing the leash, ran to Candi.
"He's excited," Marissa said.
"Good," Candi answered. "You should be, too." She gave Marissa a thumbs-up, mouthed, "You'll do great," then left.
Fortunately, by the time Amy emerged from her interview, Marissa was completely calm, cool, and collected, and ready to tell the world why she had started the cheater database and how she felt about each of the men listed on the site's pages.
"Have fun," Amy encouraged, leaving Marissa's apartment with a smile on her face and her green eyes glittering in apparent anticipation of playing with her son on the playground. "When you get done, come find us."
"Will do," Marissa said, while the photographer and journalist stepped forward from the kitchen.
"Ms. Kincaid, is this the area where you typically work?" the woman asked, pointing to Marissa's laptop, set up at its traditional perch on the circular table in her breakfast nook.
"Yes. I normally work on the computer in the evenings, when we're brainstorming or beginning one of our polls, but Amy takes over while I'm at work. And we can each add our articles and information online via an administration section of the site." Marissa knew she was rambling, but she couldn't help it. She took a deep breath in, let it out, and attempted to will herself to control her nervousness. She silently repeated Amy's words like a mantra for the day. This is a good thing. This is a good thing . . . This is a good thing. This is a good thing . . .
"And you spend your days as a computer programmer?"
"Yes," Marissa said, grateful for the easy question.
"Can we get a couple of photos of you working?" the woman continued.
"Sure." Marissa sat behind the computer, then rested her hands on the keyboard and smiled as the photographer pointed his lens in her direction.
"Good. Now, can you bring up your website, please? I'd like to get a shot of you actually working on the site," the reporter continued, scratching some notes on a long, skinny reporter's log.
Marissa complied, opening a web browser and clicking on AtlantaTellAll from her list of favorites. The floral home page surged to life, and she turned toward the photographer, now behind her, to smile for the camera. She hoped the vibrant colors on the screen showed up well for the photo; Amy had worked hard to create a fun, lively site, and Marissa wanted the photograph in the paper to do it justice.
"And you access the new website, the cheater database site, from this one, correct?" the reporter asked. "Can you show me how you do that?"
"Yes," Marissa said, thinking this interview thing wasn't so bad after all. She moved the pointer toward the only image on the screen that wasn't in the shape of a flower, a bright red heart with a dagger piercing its center. "Visitors can simply click on this icon, labeled TheGuyCheats.com TheGuyCheats.com, to access our cheater database site."
The photographer snapped more pictures while Marissa clicked on the heart and watched the screen change to the familiar waterfall of breaking hearts.
"I love that graphic," the reporter-Vivian Moore, as Candi had informed her-said. "Can you get a picture of that for me, Carl?" The photographer snapped a few shots, while Marissa grew more comfortable with this scenario. It wasn't bad at all, showing what she, Amy, and Candi had created.
"Tell me about those broken hearts on the side," Vivian said, withdrawing a tape recorder from her purse. "Okay if I tape this? It'll make it easier for me to make sure you're quoted correctly."
"Sure," Marissa said, then she clicked on each of the broken hearts to show the woman the pages for the Cheater of the Day, Song of the Day, Cheater Polls, Cheater of the Day, Song of the Day, Cheater Polls, and, of course, and, of course, The Cheaters. The Cheaters. The woman seemed particularly interested in the photos of cheaters and asked Marissa about the young boy leading the list, Trent Jackson. The woman seemed particularly interested in the photos of cheaters and asked Marissa about the young boy leading the list, Trent Jackson.
Marissa smirked. "Actually, he's the first guy who ever cheated on me, and even though we were only thirteen at the time, I thought he belonged on the list." She looked at the photo, so different from the others on the first page. "I guess I added him to show that I've been dealing with cheaters for quite a while."
"Why is his photo first?"
"Right now, the photos are listed chronologically, based on the date the cheating occurred. His, of course, is the earliest so far." Marissa used the mouse to move the cursor to the sort field at the top of the screen. "Site visitors can also sort cheaters alphabetically by first or last name," she said. "I'll show you." She started to change the sorting method, but Vivian held up her hand.
"No, that's fine," she said. "I'd rather see an actual cheater page. Can you select his page?" She pointed to Trent Jackson.
Marissa nodded and smiled. Vivian Moore must have picked up on the humor behind adding Marissa's youngest cheater to the list, and Marissa was glad she had. It would show the AJ-C AJ-C readers that Marissa had a fun side, too. She clicked on Trent Jackson's photo. readers that Marissa had a fun side, too. She clicked on Trent Jackson's photo.
"So he's the fellow that started it all?" Vivian asked, indicating the teen photo filling the screen, then nodding toward her photographer to get another shot. Carl took several, his camera clicking wildly with every twitch of his finger on the button. "Do you think that perhaps you blame him for your rough luck with guys ever since, because he initiated the pattern for others to follow?" Vivian Moore smiled sweetly, a little too sweetly, in Marissa's opinion.
Marissa swallowed, blinked. "No, I wouldn't say that I blame him," she said, her confidence sliding a hair.
"But he was was the first one to do you wrong," Vivian said. the first one to do you wrong," Vivian said.
Marissa held her tongue. The first one to do her, and her mother, wrong had been her father. He cheated on Mona, so perhaps he he had set the cheating pattern in place. But Marissa didn't want had set the cheating pattern in place. But Marissa didn't want that that going into the interview. Mona would kill her. going into the interview. Mona would kill her.
"It happened in junior high. Right?" the reporter asked, not even bothering to wait for Marissa's answer to the preceding question. Then she flashed another sickly sweet smile that made Marissa's stomach curdle.
Marissa tossed her own smile back, shifted in the chair, and felt the strap of her dress slip off her left shoulder. Carl took another shot with his camera, and Marissa promptly pushed the strap back in place. "That's true. It was junior high, and I really just added him as a joke. I mean, it was a long time ago." She shrugged, smiled. "I had to start the list somewhere, so I picked Trent." Marissa forced a laugh. Surely they realized the boy cheater was added on a whim, for a fun take on how long she'd been cheated on.
"And do you know what happened to that boy, the one that scarred you for all future relationships?" the reporter continued.
Scarred her? Marissa frowned, and dammit, Carl took another photo. "No, I don't, and I didn't say that he scarred me."
"But do you know where he is?"
Irritated, Marissa shook her head. She didn't know what had happened to Trent Jackson. It hadn't mattered. Soon after that dance, she'd been uprooted, moving at the onset of those all-important high school years. Then she never looked back at the guy who basically created her last memory of living in Atlanta. A memory of the first guy to do her wrong. "I have no idea where he is."
"But you included him in the list."
"As a joke," Marissa said, and truly wished she hadn't even remembered that Sadie Hawkins thing.
"Do you think perhaps you included him because you blame him for the fact that you gravitate toward guys of the serial cheater nature?" the lady continued, and even managed to smile when she asked the bizarre question.
Gravitate toward them? Gravitate? Gravitate? "No, I don't blame him, and I also don't gravitate toward cheaters," Marissa corrected, careful to keep her voice steady as her blood pumped fiercely beneath her flesh. "But evidently, "No, I don't blame him, and I also don't gravitate toward cheaters," Marissa corrected, careful to keep her voice steady as her blood pumped fiercely beneath her flesh. "But evidently, they they gravitate toward me. Maybe," she said, thinking aloud, "maybe I tend to attract cheaters, because that's the only kind of relationship I've ever known. Guys who cheat." The truth of that statement stung, and Marissa winced. Unfortunately, Carl found her response perfect for another photo opportunity. gravitate toward me. Maybe," she said, thinking aloud, "maybe I tend to attract cheaters, because that's the only kind of relationship I've ever known. Guys who cheat." The truth of that statement stung, and Marissa winced. Unfortunately, Carl found her response perfect for another photo opportunity.
The reporter's smile broadened a bit, but then she carefully pumped down the volume in her enthusiasm. Why did the lady seem so pleased? And why did Marissa suddenly have the urge to chew her nails?
"I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Marissa," the woman said, surprising Marissa when she stood up from the table and extended her hand. "I think this article is going to be one of my most insightful insightful ones yet." ones yet."
A sigh of relief escaped Marissa's lips before she could swallow it down. It was over. The interview was done, and now all she had to do was wait for the article to run on Sunday and reap the benefits of free publicity. She had no reason to worry, after all. Amy and Candi obviously thought their interviews went fine, and Marissa assumed hers had gone just as well, even if those last few questions made her a bit squeamish. Being uncomfortable during an interview was natural, wasn't it? It didn't mean that the piece would necessarily be bad for AtlantaTellAll, or for Marissa.
Or so she thought.
Trent Jackson reread the email on his monitor and smiled. This was definitely one of those instances where being Collin Jackson's offspring paid off, big-time. Too bad his father's old buddy at the paper hadn't sent the accompanying photographs with the preview of tomorrow's article. Trent was more than curious about how feisty Rissi looked all grown up. But come tomorrow morning, he'd know, courtesy of the front page of the AJ-C AJ-C's Living Section. In fact, all of Atlanta would know the woman behind the vindictive heart-filled site. More important, they'd know about the boy-now a man-featured on her pages. They'd learn about his name, his webzine, and his plans for a print version of DieHardAtlanta. And they'd also learn about his new, equally vindictive site.
Damn, being bad shouldn't be this much fun. Actually, being bad wasn't what Trent truly enjoyed. He liked to win, pure and simple. And Rissi Kincaid, whether she realized it or not, had issued a direct challenge. It'd been a very long time since Trent had sparred with a worthy opponent. Since his father's death five years ago, Trent had been involved in all of the company decisions. Involved Involved, but not in control. Collin Jackson had left a well-oiled machine that could, quite frankly, run itself. The truth of that should have made Trent feel secure in running the organization, but it didn't. He wanted to be a worthy asset to Jackson Enterprises, and he believed his success with DieHardAtlanta would make that happen. What's more, he foresaw this public feud with Rissi Kincaid as having the potential to make it happen.
"Publicity is publicity," Collin Jackson used to say. "Good or bad, if it gets your name out, you've succeeded."
No doubt, Collin Jackson would see this article as primo publicity. Whether he'd dub it good or bad publicity, Trent didn't know. But either way, Collin-like Trent-would have accepted Rissi's challenge. A Jackson never backed down from a fight.
The last time Trent had had a real business battle was when his father had been alive, and Collin Jackson challenged his teen son in a stock war. They'd started with the same amount of cash and had six months to invest as they chose. Trent's money doubled; Collin's tripled. But at the time, Trent was an inexperienced teen. Now he was a man, a man with plenty of business know-how, and with a man-sized desire to beat his opponent, even if she ended up being as cute as she had been back then.
Catching a glimpse of the clock displayed on the lower left corner of his monitor, Trent decided to see if Keith had called it an early night. He selected the Forward Forward option on the email and sent the text Keith's way. If Keith was home, he'd have his computer nearby, and if Keith read this article, it wouldn't take him long before he responded, either by email or by- option on the email and sent the text Keith's way. If Keith was home, he'd have his computer nearby, and if Keith read this article, it wouldn't take him long before he responded, either by email or by- The phone rang loudly, and Trent didn't bother looking at the caller identification before answering. "I thought you had a date with Cindy Cooper."
"Turned out Atlanta's newest anchorwoman was more interested in trying to determine how many zeroes are associated with the Parker name than in getting to know the man behind the dollar sign." Keith coughed loudly, probably a result of breathing barroom smoke all night, then continued. "Damn, I'm sick of dating. What I wouldn't give to find one woman who didn't care about my money, and who wasn't so undeniably shallow. It gets old. And they all say the money doesn't matter, but it's right there, dancing in their eyes when they check out the house, or the car."
"Maybe if you didn't live in Buckhead, or if you'd forgo the Jag to pick up your dates, you wouldn't have that problem," Trent said.
"Well, I can tell you one thing. You're sure not going to have any problems with women trying to snag you for life. Hell, they won't touch you with a ten-foot pole after they read this, Jackson money or not."
"You got my email."
"You knew I did when you picked up the phone. And you knew exactly what I'd think of it, too."
"Yeah, but go on, say it."
Keith yawned, then turned it into a laugh. "It's brilliant, a masterpiece of free publicity, if I do say so myself. But the lady is going to be pissed when she sees this."
"I certainly hope so," Trent said, scanning the text once more while he spoke. "Because I'd love to keep up this little feud for a while, at least long enough to put DieHardAtlanta on the map and quadruple my subscribers. This should do it, don't you think?"
"Depends on how many people get into the battle. I'd guess that it'll at least double them, but quadruple may be a stretch," Keith admitted.
"Then I'll just have to keep things interesting and pique curiosity. You'd check out these sites if you read this in the paper, wouldn't you?"
"Sure I would, but you're not dealing with me; you're dealing with Atlanta. However, for a wild hair of an idea, I think you've hit a winner. Tomorrow will tell. It'll tell lots of things, such as how many subscribers you gain from the advertising, and how many women you piss off with your new site. I can promise you that one woman will top the rest, and she's liable to take it out in a heated battle on the web. You're prepared for that, right?"
"I'm more than prepared," Trent admitted. "In fact, I'm counting on it."
Those who aren't willing to be front-page news should never agree to an interview.
-VIVIAN M MOORE
Marissa slowly moved her head on the pillow so she could thoroughly enjoy the sweet, soft kisses on her neck. It'd been a long time since her neck had been cuddled, or any other part of her, for that matter, and she was due. His hair teased her chin as he continued kissing, licking, and nipping the sensitive area between her neck and shoulder. "That . . . tickles," she said, on the verge of a lust-filled giggle.
The tall, dark stranger raised his head, smiled . . . and barked.
Marissa's eyes flew open to view Petie, his ears pointed on alert, long whiskers dangling around her chin, and dark eyes begging in an obvious request to go pee. "We've gotta stop meeting like this," she said to the puppy, now licking her jaw with vigor. "And you realize that you're beating my mother by"-she glanced at the blinding red numbers on the digital clock beside her bed-"twelve minutes."
Petie licked her chin again, then his ears stood even higher and he whirled toward the bedroom door, putting his furry rump directly in front of her face. He growled menacingly, sounding much more fierce than his fifteen pounds.
"Oh, you're playing tough guy, are you?" Marissa teased, but then tensed when she heard a sound in her living room. She grabbed Petie, still growling, and tucked him beneath her arm. His rumbling snarl vibrated against her skin. Either that, or he was as scared as she was. "Who's there?" Marissa called. "I have a dog, and he's big, and he's mad!"
"I know you do," Amy said, opening the bedroom door. "I gave him to you, remember?" She held up a heart-shaped key ring. "I used my key. Hope you don't mind."
"Of course not," Marissa said on a sigh, as Petie relaxed, squirmed from her arms, and wagged his tail.
Marissa moved her attention from her friend-make that friends, because Candi had appeared directly behind Amy-to the clock. Had she forgotten an activity they'd planned for the day? Sure, they were supposed to get together tonight to work on the updates to the site and next week's poll, but it was barely daylight. "What's going on?"
Amy and Candi sat on opposite corners of the bed, gave each other a you-go-first glance, then smiled at Marissa. Whatever they had to say, Marissa wasn't going to like it. Petie, ignoring this unusual morning visit, whimpered, then scurried to Candi's lap.
"I'm sure he needs to go out," Marissa said, pushing the plush violet comforter to the side as she prepared to take care of Petie's needs. "And when I get back, you better tell me why you're here."
Candi held up a hand, then picked up Petie. "I'll take him. No problem."
Amy glared at her. "Coward," she mumbled under her breath, but Candi merely smiled, then headed out the door.
Marissa was even more curious now. "I didn't forget anything, did I? There's a reason you're here this early?"
Amy inhaled, but didn't get the chance to answer before the phone rang. "I'll get it," she said, snatching the purple receiver before Marissa had a chance.
"It'll be my mother," Marissa said, dumbfounded. What was going on here?
"I know, but I haven't talked to Mona in a while." Amy punched the Talk Talk button. "Hello? Oh, hi, Ms. Kincaid. Yes, this is Amy. Uh-huh, she's here." Marissa waited for Amy to turn over the phone. It didn't happen. "You did? Uh-huh, I did, too. No, we haven't talked about it yet. No, she hasn't. Yes, that's why I'm here." Amy glanced at Marissa and smiled a little too broadly. "Right, that's exactly what we thought," she added, still smiling through her words. "I brought Candi with me. Yeah, I woke her up, but she's okay with it." button. "Hello? Oh, hi, Ms. Kincaid. Yes, this is Amy. Uh-huh, she's here." Marissa waited for Amy to turn over the phone. It didn't happen. "You did? Uh-huh, I did, too. No, we haven't talked about it yet. No, she hasn't. Yes, that's why I'm here." Amy glanced at Marissa and smiled a little too broadly. "Right, that's exactly what we thought," she added, still smiling through her words. "I brought Candi with me. Yeah, I woke her up, but she's okay with it."
The strange smile on her friend's face reminded Marissa of another smile that she'd seen recently, the one stretching across the face of . . . Vivian Moore.
To Catch A Cheat Part 3
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To Catch A Cheat Part 3 summary
You're reading To Catch A Cheat Part 3. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Kelley St. John already has 36 views.
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