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  • Becky @ Bike Book Reviews
  • It is one of my favorites in this series! Thanks Serena for a series that just keeps getting better and better!
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  • I love an author that can give you such a good plot and delivery in a book that isn't novel length, this is a rare talent indeed!
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  • I love a short story that makes me feel like I just read a full length it is so good!
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  • Maya @ readalloverREVIEWS
  • The story was well written and utterly cute, sweet and it is oriented around family and Christmas.
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • 'Araton's Destiny' is an enjoyable, sweet Christmas story with passionate, wonderfully written love scenes and a great happy ending.
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  • Pixie @ MM Good Book Reviews
  • Oh, this is a fantastic addition to the Gemstone Chronicles with its twists and hidden turns. Nico and Nayder are a wonderful pair.
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  • Lilyraines @ Night Owl Reviews
  • I really enjoyed reading the book because it talks about taking chances, doing things way out of the characters' comfort zones..
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Serena does a great job of exploring the out-of-the-ordinary world of fetishes in a palatable and understandable way.
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  • Garnets of Destiny 1 (Gemstone Chronicles 1)
  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • The first tale in the 'Gemstone Chronicles' is an endearing love story, endowed with marvelous, well-developed characters, but it also has its dark side, featuring malicious villains with hidden political agendas...
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  • Heather @ Padme's Library
  • I love how the author has balanced fear, tragedy, and love.
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • For those of you who haven't read the story, I'd like to recommend that you do so, especially if you like a good romance with great characters, and a happy ending.
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  • The Cake (Elemental Superpowers 1)
  • Caitlin @ Romance Junkies
  • Warning; this story will make you hungry for cupcakes and men. In addition, I should note that this is a very steamy novel.
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  • The Ship Engineer (Workplace Encounters)
  • Becky @ Bike Book Reviews
  • I am so in love with the Workplace Encounters series it isn't even funny, and this book is no different!
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  • The Baker (Workplace Encounters)
  • Becky @ Bike Book Reviews
  • Read this one friends, you will love it as much as I did! Thanks Serena, for yet another fab book in this awesome series!
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • 'The Elevator Mechanic' is a delightful, heartwarming story which I thoroughly enjoyed, and would recommend.
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  • Crissy @ Joyfully Jay
  • This is a wonderful love story highlighting that differences in a relationship, when accepted, can strengthen that bond.
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Fabio and Edwin are great characters whose devotion is tested by fire and they come out on the other side stronger than ever.
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  • The Baker (Workplace Encounters)
  • MelanieM @ scatteredthoughtsandroguewords
  • The Baker by Serena Yates is the first I’ve read in her Workplace Encounters series but I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to search out the rest.
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  • Regina @ Coffee Time Romance
  • If you never read another m/m romance this year, read this one, you will not be sorry.
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  • If you are like me, you will enjoy the story even more the second time around.
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  • The Carpenter (Workplace Encounters)
  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Reading 'The Carpenter' for the second time was easy for me because even though all of Serena's men in the 'Workplace Encounters' series are terrific characters, Tom and Matt are two of my favorites, at least so far.
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  • The Baker (Workplace Encounters)
  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Thanks, Serena, for your magical touch when it comes to giving your couples the happy ending they deserve, and for making me drool all over my Kindle while describing all of the fabulous baked goods.
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The Blancmange (Elemental Superpowers 2)

The Blancmange (Elemental Superpowers 2)
Release Date: 10 October 2011
Description:

Finn wants justice in the Water Court's controversial murder trial - but two jurors have already been killed and now an assassin is after him and won't give up.

Finn Garrison is a Water Mage who lives in Bermuda and teaches swimming to water-phobes, assists in the salvage of ship wrecks and rehabilitates local wildlife in his spare time. When he gets called to be a juror in a high profile Water Court trial and his life is endangered, he knows he needs help.

Ty Anglin is an experienced Water Marshal who doesn't really want to become someone's glorified bodyguard. When he meets Finn, he's not only attracted to him, but also suddenly very protective. Two attempts on Finn's life later, they are both sure there is more going on than meets the eye.

Will they be able to find out who is behind the assassinations? Was the sea monster on trial really framed? And are freshwater people really being discriminated against by their saltwater cousins?

 


Pages: 164
Words: 55,429
Heat Index:Heat Index
Cover Artist: Posh Gosh
Book Type: EBook, Paperback

Chapter One

 

Finn Garrison stepped out onto the sand and stretched. At six-foot-four, he was a big man and being scrunched up in a jury box day after day took its toll on him. Even his toes were happy to be back at the beach. He luxuriated in the chilly morning air and stared up at the sky.

He studied the appealing mix of shades. Brilliant blue with streaks of egg white cloud, a hint of green and soft grey. A whisper of rose. So much better than where he'd been. It reminded him of a Dairy Queen Blizzard. Why did he always think about things in terms of ice cream?

He longed to saunter over to Christopher's house, which was just three doors down, and start his morning with a cup of coffee. Christopher was so much fun and always lifted his spirits, but he could tell by their closed patio door that Christopher's lover, Marcel, was still home.

When Christopher was alone, music and good baking smells poured out of the open doors. That's how he and Christopher had first met on the beach, discussing food. He gulped as he realised Marcel was not Finn's biggest fan. For some reason, he seemed jealous of the budding friendship between Christopher and Finn-which was ridiculous. Marcel was older, but the Fire Court judge had Christopher's heart. Finn was more like his...court jester.

He found himself wondering, not for the first time, about Christopher's relationship with the dangerous and powerful Marcel Paradis. They both held high positions in the Fire Council. They were part of the clandestine network of the super-secret elemental superpowers. So was Finn. Sometimes it made him feel like Batman, other times he felt like a lunatic.

If he told any regular person what his life was like, he'd wind up in a rubber room. A juror for the Water Court, Finn was adjudicating a difficult trial right now. Being new to the Northern California beach community of Half Moon Bay-his temporary home-he'd been relieved to meet Christopher and Marcel.

It had been a fluke really, since most people involved in elemental superpowers usually didn't fraternise outside of their special elemental zone. Christopher was different, though. He had friends in all of the houses-earth, air, fire and water.

Dang...maybe I do like him as more than a friend.

This thought worried him. Hankering for the wrong guy had already landed him in a whole world of hurt. He could just quietly walk by their house. Christopher wouldn't even need to know Finn was on the beach.
But I want him to see me. I want to hang out with him. I think he's seriously special. He's not only the hottest guy I've ever met, but nobody cooks the way he does.

Finn tried not to allow his romantic and sexual fantasies to filter into his brain. He had enough on his plate.
Still, he wavered. He longed to talk to Christopher, who was not only sympathetic and understanding, but also made a fantastic cup of coffee. Not that he'd discuss the actual case with the man-or more appropriately in Christopher's case, Mage-but Christopher could make sense of even the smallest peculiarities. He was a magic man. Finn had no idea what the guy put in the coffee he made, but it always left Finn feeling very mellow. Christopher Fire ran an incredible bakery called Fabulous Cupcakes with Marcel's son, Daine. It had become the hottest bakery in San Francisco, both with humans and the ‘elementals'-as some people with superpowers called themselves.

In fact, Fabulous Cupcakes had become a kind of informal meeting place for all the superpowers. For the first time in centuries, the members had started congregating on neutral ground...there at the shop. The human customers had no idea what the hell was going on right under their noses, which was kind of fun.
But I go to that bakery just to see him. Oh, crap. I do like him, maybe more than I should. Fuckity fuckity fuck fuck fuck.

He stretched again, every muscle in his back and legs aching. The Kennedy trial should have been a routine murder trial but it had turned out to be nasty and very, very complicated. He yawned. Maybe he could stop by for a small cup of coffee and try extra hard to laugh at Marcel's jokes. He bit his lip, trying to strike up the courage. Something stopped him. The image of Marcel frowning came to mind.

Finn had never actually seen Marcel do anything mean but he'd heard stories about the mercurial judge setting fire to talkative courtroom watchers' hair. He'd given people hot feet and hot flashes. So Finn was always nice to the guy. He was aware that he, too, had powers and water could put out fire, but still...there was something frightening about Marcel.

Okay, so maybe I should stay away. I just got a nice haircut. Flames wouldn't improve it at all.
Finn blew out a breath and began to run along the foamy shoreline, passing Christopher's house, which was so near, and yet so far from his own beach bungalow.

A huge wave crashed to his left, startling him. Water sprayed him from nowhere, almost completely covering him, but his attention and body were diverted by Christopher, who'd come out of his house, waving frantically.

"Come and have breakfast. I tried calling you!"

Finn tripped over his own big feet in his haste to get to the house.

"Wow, you're all wet," Christopher said, handing him a fluffy blue towel. The man looked gorgeous. Wearing faded pale blue jeans the exact colour of his eyes and a white silk shirt, his tousled blond hair and ten-thousand kilowatt smile gave him the appearance of a supermodel. He was mesmerising.

"I just got decked by a huge wave," Finn replied.

"Really?" Christopher's brows knitted in a curious way.
Oh, I want to kiss that spot between his eyes. I want to undo each button and lick my way down his torso until I reach his treasure trail.

Stop, idiot. He's taken.

"But the water's so flat today." Christopher's nose crinkled as he looked past Finn's shoulder out towards the sea.

Finn turned. He was right. But the wave had been there, coming out of nowhere. Finn brushed the thought aside. Half Moon Bay, just thirty minutes south of San Francisco, was a picturesque, secluded enclave, but it was also a super-secret big wave spot. Swells just popped up out of seemingly harmless ripples. Surfer Mark Foo had drowned here several years ago and people still talked about it like it happened yesterday.

The smell of warm peach and lemon had him towel-drying himself in record time. He walked into the house, nodding to Marcel who sat on a high stool at the kitchen breakfast bar, in jeans and a mulberry coloured sweater, reading the morning paper. Finn knew that Christopher had knitted it. It had taken him ages. A lot of love had gone into it. The thought depressed Finn. He brought his thoughts back to the present.
"Good morning, Marcel," he said, putting a smile on his face.

It surprised Finn to see that the great, distinguished jurist was reading a human newspaper, but then again, nothing about Marcel was...well, normal.

"What's good about it?" Marcel glowered at him.

Maybe I should have sprayed my hair with fire retardant before I came over here...

"Well," Finn said, without thinking, "I have no jury duty today. It's such a relief. This trial is killing me, I swear."

For a moment, desolation gripped him. He hated the trial. Hated that he'd been summoned from his lonely, but very comfortable existence back in Mermaid Beach, Bermuda, to sit in on the case. The powers-that-be had promised him it would take a week. He should have smelled a water rat when they'd offered to spring for accommodation.

He narrowed his eyes now. It was Saturday. On Monday, he and the other Water Court jurors would be embarking on their second month of witness testimony in what some had dubbed the ‘Camelot' case.

As if reading his mind, Marcel glanced at him. "You're working the Camelot trial?" He carefully folded up his newspaper, placed it by his left elbow then leaned on the breakfast bar, staring at him. For the first time since they'd met, Marcel seemed to be interested in Finn.
Finn saw the crackle of fire cross Marcel's pupils. He wished he had a glass of water handy just in case he'd need to extinguish a fire on his crotch or something.

"Take a seat." Marcel held out the stool beside him.

Christopher beamed and put two bread plates and a basket of what Christopher called breakfast cupcakes between the two men. Finn called these delicacies godsends. He'd never tasted such fantastic cupcakes in his life. Christopher slid silverware beside them, then-to Finn's relief-poured him a cup of coffee. Finn took a seat, drinking from his cup the second Christopher stopped adding cream to it. He felt better, as if somehow Christopher had reached inside him and ironed out the spiritual kinks. Not that he would ever voice these thoughts aloud.

To anybody.

"So," Marcel purred. "You must tell me. Have you seen Mr. Kennedy yet?"

Finn hesitated. This was such a loaded question and he was afraid to answer it. He knew that the Water Court had struggled to fill the jury seats for what had turned out to be anything but a routine case. It was bizarre. Strange things had happened to several prospective jurors and the case itself was...beyond weird. He longed to talk about it but knew it would violate all kinds of laws. He'd been concerned when they'd finally secured a working jury, then suddenly one member vanished. She'd been quickly replaced...well, a week later. But between the jury selection and the strange defendant himself, it hadn't been an easy case to handle.

A second juror had been injured in a hit and run accident. He'd been knocked down by a human, but it had rattled the entire jury. The man's unfortunate accident meant that the jury had been given the weekend off. It had been Finn's first day off in two months. Superpowers courts didn't work like human ones. Their trials went on every single day until the matter was settled. Nobody had ever seen a case like this.

He realised suddenly that it may take months to settle. He'd be stuck in the courtroom forever if the defence had their way. He was nervous and tired. He longed for advice...for sympathy. He couldn't talk to anybody and it made him feel like he was heading for a breakdown.

Finn felt that-as much as he envied Marcel's relationship with Christopher-he could trust the man, but...well...did he trust him? And should he?

He held his cup in one hand, surreptitiously draping the other hand across his lap. It didn't offer his crotch much protection but it was better than nothing should Marcel harbour a desire to firebomb him.

The second sip of coffee was as good as the first. The fog in his brain started to lift and he was certain he could come up with a snappy answer that would satisfy Marcel's curiosity, keep him interested in having a conversation with Finn, and convey the weighted truth that yes, he'd seen Kennedy.

Christopher held the glass coffee carafe in his hand and stared at Finn.

"My God...you've seen him," he whispered. He went to put the pot on the bar but clipped it against the edge, accidentally. The glass shattered, hot coffee flying everywhere, startling all three of them.

"Stay there." Marcel put a warm hand on Finn's arm. Heat soared through his body and he realised he couldn't move.

Christopher frantically cleaned up and, out of nowhere, produced a second, identical carafe.

"Fresh coffee, coming right up." He smiled. Finn tried to relax. Instead he found himself immobile and sweating. He'd heard about Marcel's fondness for using this power. It was most persuasive on hostile witnesses. Finn almost giggled.

I'd love to see him try this on Kennedy...

"This is a big case for Bainbridge, isn't it?" Marcel asked.

Nice one. He's trying to make me feel like we're equals. He's trying to get me to showboat, to spill everything I know.

Finn tried to take another sip of coffee, but his arm wouldn't cooperate. His desperate eyes sought Christopher's gaze.

Christopher stared right back and frowned.

"Darling, that's not nice. Unfreeze him immediately. Haven't I asked you not to paralyse our guests?"
Marcel harrumphed and suddenly Finn could move again. He gulped at his coffee. He wanted to get out of here.

He felt better now that he had control of his body again. His hand shook as he lifted the coffee cup to his lips.

Marcel seemed to be waiting. Tough. He could keep waiting. It irritated Finn that Marcel seemed to think that Finn was some child he could goad and control. He resisted the temptation to roll his eyes at the casual way Marcel had raised the topic of Ephyrus Bainbridge, he of the law firm of Arden, Bainbridge, Chinook and Damek. It was a large, Fortune 500 company that handled major criminal cases both in the human and the superpowers realms.

Ephyrus Bainbridge was the partner who oversaw the cases for the Water Court and personally handled the big ones. The Kennedy trial was as big as they came. Finn began to panic. The trial had distressed him more than he'd thought was possible. He saw danger in every conversation, conspiracy in every glance in his direction.

He drained his coffee fast, even though it scalded his mouth.

"I should go," he said, eyeing the baked goods in the basket. He was hungry. He was always hungry, but suddenly he didn't trust anything he hadn't prepared himself.

"Finn, are you okay?" Christopher was full of concern. "I have fresh coffee brewing. And look...I made your favourite cupcakes. Chocolate sea-salt caramel."

"Yeah. I noticed." He swallowed. Hard.

"This trial's been awfully hard on you," Christopher said, his tone coaxing. "Marcel and I are...worried about you. And of course we can't hide our curiosity. This is the biggest case to hit our people in years!"

"Have a cake." Marcel's gruff tone took on a warmer edge. Finn couldn't resist. His teeth sank into the velvety goodness. The sea-salt crystals offset the sweetness of the caramel. These were Christopher's newest creations for the bakery. He called them breakfast cupcakes because the icing that would normally top the cake was infused inside it in delectable ribbons. Finn's mouth watered from the explosion of fantastic flavours.

"You know, nobody's trying to entrap you or trick you. This is a huge case and I want the gossip. I can't believe how closed-mouthed everyone on the jury is being," Marcel griped. "How am I supposed to feel when our best friend won't even tell us a damned thing?"

"Marcel!" Christopher's voice came out in a shriek.

"I'm scared," Finn said finally when he'd consumed the last crumb. He really was. Not just of Kennedy, but the awfulness that had become his life. He was afraid the trial would never be over. He was afraid that, one by one, all the jurors would meet horrible fates.

"Well, I can understand that," Marcel said finally.

Finn was relieved. "You can?"

"Yes. You don't trust me. If Christopher was here alone, you'd be singing like the proverbial canary."

"Marcel!" Christopher sounded appalled.

"I should go," Finn mumbled. He kept his head down. "Thanks for breakfast."

He shuffled out the door, with Christopher rushing after him.

"Oh, Finn, I'm so sorry," Christopher whispered when they reached the back door. "He's so jealous of our friendship and it's so stupid. Please don't hate him."

"I don't." I hate him as much as I hate this trial.

He gave Christopher what he hoped was a reassuring smile then strolled to the beach. He'd take a nice long run and head back home...to bed. He'd watch something light and fun. He liked movies about the ocean. Maybe an oldie but goodie, like Splash.

He broke into a comfortable pace, feeling the hard-packed sand under his feet working his leg muscles. In just two months, his rock-solid body had gone a bit soft. He didn't have time for his usual, strenuous workouts and he missed them. The water lapped beside him, the sound of the ocean's rhythm soothing him.

And then...

He heard a roar and the waves swelled up high. He stopped and stared. He'd never seen seven-foot waves this close to the shoreline. A man appeared from the middle of the break, coming towards him.

Finn stopped. He'd never seen anything like him. The almost naked, wild-haired, six-foot tall man came straight at him, closing his hands around Finn's throat. He was shorter than Finn but oh, so much stronger. He dragged him into the ocean, Finn's cries for help gurgling in his throat.

The man dragged him down...down...and Finn realised he was drowning. He fought off his attacker, kneeing him in the groin. The man wore a loin cloth that felt slick and slippery as Finn kicked him again. The grip on his throat loosened. One hand fell away when Finn bit into it. He tasted of brine and endless sea-salt. The stranger roared as Finn rolled, like a whale, getting the man underneath him.

Finn broke the surface, screaming, "Help! Help!"

The man below grabbed him again, looking surprised that Finn was fighting him so hard.

Finn bit the free hand that came at him again and he karate-chopped the other hand struggling for purchase at his throat. He felt the attacker's thumb pressing into his windpipe. He was blacking out when he heard shouting and rapid footfalls, and the next thing he knew, Christopher was in the water with him, dragging him to safety.

They fell onto the sand, Finn coughing and spluttering.

"Oh my God...he was trying to kill me," Finn moaned."Who was he?" Christopher gasped. He was on top of Finn and quickly turned him over, pressing on Finn's back. Water and seaweed spewed out of him.

The two men kept coughing and struggling for breath as Marcel ran towards them.

"What the hell's going on?" he demanded.

"This man...he tried to drown Finn. He-" Chris sat up on the sand, looking around, choking on a cough."Where the hell did he go?"

Finn struggled for composure. His whole body ached. He could barely speak, his voice coming out in a hoarse whisper. He turned around to a sitting position.

"It was the weirdest thing I ever saw. A huge wave came right out of nowhere and this man walked out of it and grabbed me. He dragged me into the water and tried to drown me."

"Really." Marcel looked furious, his arms folded. "And where is this mysterious person now?"

Finn and Christopher gazed out at the tame waves.

"It happened. It was real." Finn's throat felt like it was coated in sand. He turned to Christopher. "You saved my life. Thank you."

"We need to get you inside," Christopher said. "Marcel, help me."

They lifted him to his feet and Marcel's expression changed. They got inside the house.

"Describe this man to me," he said, pacing the kitchen as Christopher gave Finn a towel and a fresh cup of coffee.

Finn did his best even though to his own mind, the whole thing now sounded deranged.

"We have a big problem here." Marcel interrupted Finn's rambling description.

Aw, hell. He doesn't believe me. My God...he came out and found Christopher on top of me...what must he think?

"Marcel, believe me-"

"Oh, I believe you." Marcel looked grim. "I see the bruises on your face and neck now. You do realise he's not going to stop until he kills you too, right?"

Finn's blood froze. His teeth began to chatter. "What do you mean, me too?"

Marcel grimaced. "Like I said, we have a problem." He lifted his hands in a gesture of helpless surrender."I'm late for work, but I'm sure that under these special circumstances, nobody's going to penalise me. I'm going to call Ephyrus Bainbridge right now."

Finn stared at him. What was Marcel up to, calling Bainbridge?

"He'll disbar me. He'll take away my powers...oh my God. He'll think I told you stuff!"

Marcel scoffed. "Nonsense. Nobody can blame you for being attacked." He held up a finger. "However, for the time being-until we can get you some medical attention and some protection-you're staying here with us."

He picked up his cell phone and began pressing numbers.

Finn panicked. "I can't stay here!"

"You can and you will," Christopher said, putting his arm around Finn's shoulders. "Here, sweetie, drink some of this."

He poured something into Finn's coffee, the smell wafting up to Finn's nose, sending his thoughts to faraway places-images of handsome mermen, ferny dells...a beautiful sunrise...

"Drink, sweetie."

"Hmm?" Finn's mind turned fuzzy. He didn't want to leave the handsome merman. He drank deeply, the merman's face coming into sharper view. Oh, he was handsome.

"That's better." Christopher's voice soothed his soul, but didn't interrupt the dream. He allowed the other man to steer him to the sofa. He sipped some more before Christopher took the cup away from him and urged him to lie down. The magical dream filled Finn's senses-the merman smiling, stroking his face as Christopher's hand touched his cold cheek. He tucked a pillow under Finn's head and a soft blanket around him.

"I think we averted shock," he heard Christopher say, his voice seeming to come from a distant galaxy as the merman crouched beside Finn now, his face full of love.

"Good." Marcel's tone was terse. Finn's eyes drifted shut as he heard the feared jurist say, "I wish I could say it was a good morning, Ephyrus. Unfortunately, there's been another attack..."

 

©A.J. Llewellyn and Serena Yates, 2011
All Rights Reserved

 

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