NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am completely DEVASTATED over what happened to Christian at the Smackdown! Tapings this past Tuesday night. IMHO, Randy Orton DOES NOT DESERVE ANOTHER WHC TITLE! HE AND VINCENT KENNEDY MCMAHON SHOULD BE LYNCHED! If this was the plan all along, congrats and way 2 go. You've just lost a ton of longtime fans and alienated the WWE Universe.

*Chokes back tears* I'm going to try and get another chapter banged out for everyone who's marked this story as a Favorite, but don't be surprised if it's not as good as what I've written so far. Right now, my heart isn't in it like it should be. I think I need a hug, and so does Christian:(

Chapter Eight

December 10, 1998

"It looks like Anna sent me a birthday present," Stephanie said as she walked into the living room with her arms full of mail. Perched on top of the envelopes was a small padded envelope.

Linda McMahon looked up from the newspaper she was reading. Vince, as usual, was on the road with the WWF. "It's her birthday today, isn't it? Your birthday was in September."

"Well you know how she is," Stephanie chuckled as she set her mom's mail in front of her. "It's her birthday, and she sends me a present."

"I remember when you were just little bitty things. You two were thick as thieves. Your dad never quite got why you two were so close, though," Linda sighed. "But, I must admit, she's turned out to be a nice young lady," Linda glanced down at her daughter's hand. "Stephanie, I don't think I've seen that ring before. Is it new.?"

Stephanie tensed slightly. Linda didn't notice. "Oh, the blue topaz one?"

"Yes. It's lovely. The stone matches your eyes. Where'd you get that?"

"Oh, I got that when I was with Anna the day after Thanksgiving. Christmas gift to myself."

Linda cocked an eyebrow. "Yeah, I remember that. How was your weekend with her?"

"It was good. I went shopping with her, and then it got too late for me to get back, and I stayed the night with her and her mom." That part was true. Stephanie simply left out the dinner date and proposal from Mark.

"You get all your shopping finished?"

Stephanie smiled. "I did."

Linda's eyes twinkled. "So, you wouldn't mind giving me a hint of what you've gotten your mom for Christmas, would you."

Stephanie chuckled softly. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait for Christmas to find out, like everyone else."

"Aww, not even a little whiff?"

"Sorry Mom, no. And no puppy dog eyes, either."

Linda laughed and patted her daughter on the back. "I'm sure whatever you got for me, I'm going to love."

Stephanie pulled away from her mom gently. "I'm gonna head upstairs and change out of my work clothes," she said, heading out of the living room, the padded envelope firmly clutched in her hand.

"It's just going to be you and me for dinner this evening. Would you like me to order something? There's a new Chinese restaurant that delivers."

"Yeah," Stephanie called out over her shoulder. "Can you order me some ginger chicken?"

"Of course," Linda smiled. "Don't take too long in your bedroom."

"I won't."

~~~MOD~~~

Stephanie's heart was pounding as she closed her bedroom door behind her. Good thing Dad was away once more, she thought as she set the envelope down on her bed. The conversation downstairs would not have gone as smoothly if Vince had been home.

She almost didn't want to open the envelope. Stephanie had a gut feeling that the contents would forever change her relationship with her family, her father in particular. She wouldn't be able to look at or talk to or hug him without thinking about how willing he was to sacrifice her on the altar of his empire. And she wouldn't be able to laugh or tease or hang out with Shane without knowing how willing he was to conspire with their dad. Just thinking about it nearly made Stephanie lose her resolve. Once she opened the envelope, her father's treachery would become real.

I'm not sure I can do this, she thought, taking a deep breath to steady herself. As she clenched her fists to stop the trembling of her fingers, Stephanie glanced down at the twinkling blue topaz ring on her right hand. It was more than just a piece of jewelry, and more than an engagement ring. It represented her independence. Her love for Mark. Her freedom. And most of all, it represented the future that lay within her grasp if she was willing to fight for it.

Well, I haven't been sending part of my check to Mark for grins and giggles, she thought determinedly, as she ripped open the envelope. Carefully, she pulled out a brand new DVD copy of Good Will Hunting. Taped to it was a lavender colored envelope. The butterflies in Stephanie's stomach were nearly the size of condors as she opened it and removed the little notecard inside:

Hi! Since you liked the movie so much when we saw it last year, i thought you'd enjoy a copy for yourself. BTW, I saw the DVD before I sent it-couldn't help myself!:) Anyway, there's some extras in the DVD that I thought you'd like. Enjoy! Love, AKH.

Extras in the DVD. Stephanie smiled slyly and opened the DVD box. Sure enough, there was the DVD of the movie, set snugly in the case, and another disk was Scotch-taped to the other side. "Wow Anna, you are a clever girl," she laughed softly as she removed the disk and slid it into the CD drawer of her PC so that she could view the contents. "This feels like Mission Impossible right now.Your assignment, Stephanie McMahon, should you chose to accept it..."

On the CD was a folder labeled Stephanie. With her heart pounding, her pulse racing, and a metallic taste in her mouth, Stephanie opened the folderto reveal several Word Documents. She clicked on the one labeled readmefirst, and read:

Hi, Babe:

You didn't expect me to be technically inclined, did you? Well your dad emailed me the Ministry Of Darkness story details, I guess out of convenience, and I took it upon myself to burn them onto a CD and mail it to Anna. That way, you'd have a hard copy if anyone tries to deny anything. KEEP THIS CD LOCKED UP! OR BETTER YET, DESTROY IT WHEN YOU GET WHAT YOU NEED OUT OF IT.

Anyway, I don't have all the details yet—your dad wants to keep a few cards close to his vest, I suppose—but here's what I was able to gather for you. Your involvement in this storyline won't begin until February. Vince and Shane are going to have someone secretly take pictures of you at home, in your car, shopping, etc. I know it'll be extremely difficult, but try your best to act like you don't even notice them. Don't do anything that will draw suspicion.

If you have anything of value or private or personal stuff you don't want anyone to get into, LOCK IT UP. Vince is going to make it look like I'm stalking you, taking pictures and invading your privacy. In other words, he's gonna be rifling though your things. I'm sure there's a few things that you don't want your dad or brother getting into. Initially, they wanted me to go thru your stuff, but I drew the line there. Trust me Stephanie, I would NEVER in a million years invade your privacy. I guess with your dad and brother, though, that's a whole different ballgame.

The gist of it is, I'm going to walk around for the next several months telling everyone that I'm the second coming of the Lord Of Darkness and pretend to live the gimmick. I'll stalk, kidnap, and marry you in an effort to take over the WWF. That's gonna be my part at least.

There's a lot of other details that I don't want to go into just yet. But suffice it to say that your dad is going to use you and this whole Ministry Of Darkness story to get back at Steve Austin.

There's a couple of other documents on this CD that you can read through if or when you have time. But I can't stress this enough-KEEP THIS CD LOCKED UP OR DESTROY IT! I'm one of your dad's main go-to guys. I'm taking a HUGE risk here, and one screwup from either you or me could spell disaster.

Stay safe, and I'll try to keep in touch.

Love,

Mark

Stephanie closed the document and pushed back her chair, feeling like she'd been hit in the gut with a fastball. The scope of what her dad and brother were planning where she was concerned was just inconceivable. God, is nothing sacred when it comes to my dad? she wondered in shock. Although her part in this drama wouldn't be for another couple of months, Stephanie was already thinking about where she could lock up her personal and private things.

Shaking her head, she highlighted the Stephanie folder and then copied it into her My Documents folder on her computer desktop. She made the copied folder a hidden one so that nobody would be able to see it. Even though her computer was password protected, Stephanie didn't want to take any chances. Tomorrow morning, she would take the CD into work and shred it.

Stephanie removed the CD and placed it in the top drawer of her computer desk. Boy, Dad, you're hellbent on getting your revenge, and you don't care who you step on, do you? she thought angrily. As she took her work clothes off and changed into a tank top and plaid lounge pants, she went over Mark's warning in her head, and found herself focusing on one paragraph:

The gist of it is, I'm going to walk around for the next several months telling everyone that I'm the second coming of the Lord Of Darkness and pretend to live the gimmick. I'll stalk, kidnap, and marry you in an effort to take over the WWF. That's gonna be my part at least.

Stephanie wanted to shout in triumph. In his zeal to punish Steve Austin, Vince McMahon had provided an opportunity that his daughter could now exploit. Dad, you may not know it yet, she thought happily, but you're gonna be paying for my wedding.

And when it's all over, Mark and I will have lifetime job security.

"Stephanie?" Linda's voice called out from downstairs.

"I'll be down in a minute!" Stephanie shouted back, picking up theDVD. "Do you want to watch a movie tonight? Anna got me Good Will Hunting."

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Okay, I apologize for my rant in the beginning of this chapter. No offense to Randy's fans; I had a mark-out moment, but I'm calm now. I just HOPE the title loss is part of a big storyline. If it's not, I'll be extremely pissed.

Anyway, we're gonna jump forward a few weeks. Time circuits on... Flux Capacitor... fluxing... Engine running... All right! Make sure the seat belts are on!

REVIEWS = LOVE