Practice to Deceive

Stephanie walked down the hallway, smoothed her skirt nervously. This was it. This was the deal that would finally help Smackdown get back on its feet. Since losing two of her brightest stars, Edge and Kurt Angle, Stephanie realized that her show had...faltered.

It was hardly her fault though, but her of course her father didn't see it this way. He thought she was failing, thought that that idiot Bischoff was actually producing a better show than her.

She'd heard rumblings backstage, whispered conversations that Dad was thinking of replacing her.

She knew he was capable of it, certainly. He'd stab her in the back, his own daughter, before she even realized what had hit her.

But now, she had an ace up her sleeve. This newest acquisition...Her newest acquisition...He would be her greatest triumph to date: Mr. America. His athleticism, she'd been told was unparalled.

She'd been told by his agents that he was not only physically gifted, but an incredibly intelligent wrestler as well. Someone definitely guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. Stephanie couldn't help but be a little wary. After all, things that sounded too good to be true usually were. And Mr.America? Definitely fit the bill. Well, standing outside this guy's dressing room wasn't going to accomplish anything. She quickly strode over to the mirror in the hallway and smoothed her hair, pressed her lips together to renew the color of her lipstick. Deep breath, she told herself. She'd make a wonderful impression on this guy, convince him that signing with Smackdown was the smartest thing he'd ever done.

She raised her hand to the door and rapped three times. She heard a muffled shuffling of a chair and a grunted "Come in." She pasted her biggest smile on her face and twisted the doorknob.

Her smile, however, quickly faded when she saw who was on the other side of the door.

Her hand dropped to her side and a look of mortification mixed with surprise took over

She stared at him as he simply looked up and grinned at her with some curious mixture of triumph and evilness. She blinked rapidly. This cannot be happening. She told herself. She stepped back outside and closed the door behind her.

Just as quick as she shut it, she popped it back open, fully expecting not to see him sitting there…Dammit, he's still here! Once again, she closed the door and swung it back open. He was still there. She felt her hands curl into fists at her side and in a pitifully whiny voice asked "Ohhhh, why? What the hell are you doing here?"

He stood up and grinned "Well, Steph. I'm here for Mr. America, of course." Realization hit her. "Oh, I get it now, Hunter. You're here to ruin this deal for me." Hunter simply laughed. "Yeah, that's it." She said looking at him knowingly and walked around him in a circle.

"You're either going to convince him not to sign, or you'll just beat the crap out of him to where he'll be out for awhile and I'll lose money. Thus, making me look bad."

"Well then, you've just got it all figured out don't ya?" Hunter clapped slowly, mockingly in reaction for her accusations.

She shot him a glare. "Are you insulting my intelligence?" She asked incredulously.

"Why Steph, I'd never do such a thing."

"Yeah, whatever. You do realize I can have your ass thrown out, right?" she asked.

"Oh really?" He asked laughing at her. "I highly doubt that."

"Fuck off, Hunter. You're here to ruin me…again!" she said yelling at the end of her sentence.

"Actually, I'm here to save you…" He trailed off mysteriously.

Steph looked at him slack jawed like he lost his damn mind.

"Don't believe me?" He asked.

"I'll believe you when hell freezes over."

Stephanie started to walk out, she had to get out of this room and figure out what Hunter had done with Mr. America. What if he'd persuaded him not to sign with her somehow? What if he'd figured out some way to get Mr. America out of the ironclad contract she'd just had him signed to not even an hour ago? She swallowed hard, God, how could Hunter do this? She'd left him alone, he hadn't made any attempt to contact her either...so why, why now? Did he just get off on setting fire to any good thing she had going on in her life?

Did he truly hate her so much? She pulled at the doorknob, stifling her suddenly too heavy breathing but was startled when a huge hand smacked the door shut in front of her. "Steph." Low, gravelly voice and it was everywhere around her, in every molecule of air surrounding them. "You're not going anywhere, and for that matter, neither am I."

"Oh, shut the hell up. Stop with all your little--your little--pronouncements!" she finished awkwardly.

"Pronouncements?" She could hear the smirk in his voice, but she refused to look at him, just stared blankly at his hand. She closed her eyes for a moment, tried to count backwards from ten. All the magazines said that counting would help someone calm down, not get angry, not lose their temper.

But the counting wasn't working...maybe she'd just got it confused with counting sheep in order to sleep or something. "Stupid magazines."

"Huh?" Hunter murmured.

Stephanie realized she'd muttered that aloud. Damn. She swiveled her head to look at him, and was a little freaked out that he was suddenly so close, his face just a couple inches from hers, so close she could practically see the pores in his skin, and she could smell the faint hint of his expensive cologne. Nothing but the best for the 'Champion', she thought wryly.

She backed up against the door and the back of her head pressed against his hand. She leaned forward again, to move away, but to her shock, he moved even closer and turned his hand around so that it wove itself in her hair, holding her in place. She gaped at him, unsure of what to do. It wasn't as though she could move, or for that matter, even breathe at this point. "Wh--what are you doing?" She asked, pleased at the cool tone of her voice. Because she wasn't affected by this sudden nearness, no, not at all.

Just because she hadn't even talked to this man, to her ex-husband in months, and the fact that this was their first actual contact in so long...

Get a grip! She pushed against Hunter with her right hand and reached behind to pull his hand out of her hair. He let go immediately, with a slight smile. Smile? No. Wrong word. It was...a grin. That stupid grin that he'd always had, the one that told her he thought he had gotten one up on some poor sucker, and they were just too dumb to realize it.

It wasn't a pleasant feeling thinking she was suddenly that sucker. She walked over to one of the overstuffed chairs and sank into it, crossing her legs in front of her. "What are you even doing here, Hunter?" She asked again, finally.

He stared at her for a moment and then eased his body into the other chair across from her.

And that was when Stephanie realized something, something that made her feel a whole lot better, impossibly fast. He was nervous. Hunter Hearst-Helmsley, her ex-husband, was nervous.