Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chapter Seven: Overreacting Can be Detrimental to the Welfare of One’s Jeans

-

Edward

Edward could feel every atom in his body, every neuron misfiring, and every cell burning with a rage so intense he wanted to pulverize someone or something. Aro had used this girl to try manipulate him and he would be damned if he let that happen.

As the anger set in and radiated through his body, panic crashed over him in a wave. He had no idea how much the girl in front of him knew beyond what he had told her in the diner. Despite how innocent she looked she could damn well be one of Aro’s many decoys. His boss was good at finding people to do his dirty work that would go unsuspected; Edward was a case in point. Bella could definitely fit into that category as well.

As his fear and his fury twined together, they created a tornado of emotion inside him that refused to remain contained. Unfortunately for Bella, his anger had no direction to go but toward her. He sucked in a ragged breath. His eyes shifted to the house that was completely obscured by the winding drive and the path of trees lining it. Beyond the line of trees was a drop-off about twenty feet down.

“Edward, if we just go inside . . .”

He didn’t say a word as he grabbed her arm, wrapping his fingers around her bicep before he dragged her toward her truck.

“What are you doing?” she asked, her voice thin and reedy as she struggled in his hold.

He let go of her to yank open her driver’s side door and put the truck into gear. He reefed on the wheel until the vehicle was pointed directly toward a break in the trees before he released it, allowing the truck to roll forward.

“Edward!” Bella exclaimed.

He was sure on some level she must know what his intention was. He wrapped one arm around her waist and clamped his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming or trying to run. The last thing he needed was any interference from Carlisle.

He watched with perverse pleasure as the beast of a truck plowed through the underbrush and the mowed over the small trees in its path, driving over the embankment and into the valley below with a satisfying crash. It would be impossible to see the truck at night, and as it was approaching late afternoon, Edward felt fairly confident that no one would notice the vehicle until he and Bella were long gone.

She struggled against him, flailing wildly as he dragged her away from the crest of the embankment toward his car. He could feel her mouth parting in a muffled scream against his palm, her hot breath moistening his skin as he opened the driver’s side door and manhandled her into the passenger seat. He was too blinded by anger and seething with rage to care if he was hurting her, something that he would later come to regret.

But in that moment, there was no way he was going to give her a chance to escape, not until she told him what she knew and what Aro’s plans were.

“Where are you taking me?” Bella asked, her voice a wavering whisper as her eyes grew wide with an emotion Edward was very familiar with: fear.

“We’re going for a ride,” he muttered darkly as he slammed his fist down on the lock and buckled her into her seat.

He sat back and shifted the car into gear, pulling away from the gravel edge before gunning the engine. He could see Bella gripping at her seat belt with one hand the fingers of the other at her throat, her terror a nearly tangible presence in the vehicle.

“I don’t think . . .” She whimpered, her voice tinny and pained as she took in a shuddering breath, unable or too afraid to continue.

Edward tried to ignore the fact that it sounded like she was about to start crying and focused on what he needed to know. “Why did Aro hire you?” he spat out, his fingers gripping the wheel so tightly his knuckles were turning white.

“I don’t know who Aro is,” Bella whispered, shaking her head furiously, her mane of hair whipping around her face.

“The hell you don’t,” Edward gave her a sideways glance. He knew he needed to pull over somewhere to interrogate her properly. Reading her facial expressions and body language was critical in this situation.

“I know it’s difficult to understand,” she murmured quietly. “If you would just let me explain . . . ”

Edward slammed on the brakes, making a hard right onto a dirt road. His GPS wasn’t picking it up, which likely meant it was a hunting trail of some kind. He killed the engine, watching as her hand went to the door handle. He threw the car into park and was out of his seat, on top of her like a lightning strike.

“Don’t even fucking think about it, Bella, you can’t outrun me,” he hissed viciously, his face inches from hers, his body hovering over her, pinning her to the seat.

“Puh-please . . . if we just g-go back, Carlisle, your f-father will tell you . . .” She stammered, her terrified sob cutting off the rest of the words.

“Shut up! Shut the fuck up!” he screamed, “No more fucking mind games, no more of this shit, you will tell me what I want to know or so help me God . . .” His eyes were black with murderous rage as he slammed his fist into the back of her head rest.

Bella shrank into the seat beneath him, turning her head away from his baleful glare and terrifying words. Her hands came up to protect her face, which was laughable, if Edward wanted to hurt her he certainly could. She was dwarfed by his size as he loomed over her, a menacing presence with the seething fury that emanated from his body in a wave, pouring out of him and over her.

A painful sob spasmed through her. “Please, ohgodohgodohgod, please don’t kill me, please. I’m all Alice has. I have— I have— I have . . .” She sucked in short, stunted breaths.

Edward blinked furiously, her panic pushing through his veil of anger and touching the reasonable part of him. The part of him that was not overwhelmed and petrified of the thought of something happening to his family because of Aro or this girl, who was clearly terrified to the point of hyperventilating, surfaced.

He moved away from her, giving her space, “I’m not going to kill you,” he told her, trying to get a handle on himself. The realization that he was acting like Aro, doing things that Aro would do in a situation like this incited his self-loathing. He was ashamed of himself for becoming what he so despised. “I just want you to tell me who you’re working for and how you know Carlisle.”

Bella continued to gasp and shudder, her entire body convulsing as she tried to get a grip on herself. She swallowed repeatedly, taking deeper, fuller breaths before she scrubbed her palms against her eyes.

“You drove my truck over a ledge.” Bella’s lower lip trembled as fresh tears started to well up and slide in thick streams down her cheeks.

“Fuck,” Edward huffed in frustration at his inability to force her to talk. He could hardly argue with her. If Aro had driven his car over an embankment and forced him into his car, he would have assumed it was game over.

He sat back in his seat and his head bounced off the headrest. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he muttered angrily, slamming his fist into the dashboard, causing Bella to shriek and huddle further into her seat, covering her head with her hands.

Pulling the keys out of the ignition he wrenched the door open. After getting out, he slammed it closed. The urge to do it repeatedly only quelled by the knowledge that it would likely scare the piss out of Bella and she was already terrified enough. He screamed out his frustration in a slew of profanities, unable to get a handle on the emotional storm that was raging inside him.

He didn’t know what to believe, had no idea whether this girl was just a pawn in a game she didn’t know she was playing or an amazing actress. The notion that Carlisle Cullen could be his father made his stomach flip. As far as he knew, his father had taken off when he was a kid and never came back. His memories of him were vague and blurry at best. His mother kept no pictures of him in the house, and there was no evidence that he had ever been an integral part of their lives.

Nothing that was happening made sense. Although, if he could clear his mind and get the information he needed out of Bella he might get some perspective. He heard the sound ofher door opening and whirled around.

She raised her hands in supplication, her eyes wide and watery. “I-I . . .” She blinked, trying to find her tongue as she looked down at the ground. Edward could only imagine how he must have appeared to her in that moment; aggressive, violent, destructive. “Your seat,” she said in a voice that barely registered as she motioned to the passenger side of the car.

Edward furrowed his brow, his eyes moving over her, taking her in. While he’d been focused on her face before in the diner he got a better look at the whole package now. She was dressed in old clothes, they were loose on her slight frame and as his eyes traveled down, past the coat that hung off her slumped shoulders to the worn jeans his eyes widened in understanding.

“I’m s-s-sorry,” she apologized quickly, ducking her head as she brought her hands down and tried to pull her coat to cover the evidence of her apparent embarrassment and shame.

Edward had made her piss herself.

As the realization dawned on him, his own mortification wrapped around him and squeezed the breath out of his lungs. His shame overshadowed his anger, and he wondered just how disappointed his mother would be in him if she found out that he had done something like this — abducted a girl and took her out into the woods to interrogate her. He was becoming exactly what he was trying to escape.

Christ, his life was a mess.

He took a tentative step toward her, palms up, but she was skittish and she backed away from him, tripping over a root on the forest floor and falling on her ass.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said quietly, gently.

“I just wanted to help,” she whispered.

She kept her head down and her eyes on the ground, her fingers pushing into the dirt, her arms shaking and knees trembling. Edward doubted she believed him at this point. She had no reason to, he was acting like a psychotic asshole, having destroyed her piece of shit truck and then driving her out to what he was sure she assumed was her imminent death. He could very well kill her if he wanted to; he had a gun. However he had never used it, unless target practice counted.

“I just wanted to make some money so my sister didn’t end up in foster care. I thought . . . I don’t know what I thought. I figured someone was offering me a way to get ahead so I took it,” she rambled on, her voice rising, her words coming faster as panic took over. “I didn’t think I’d end up getting myself involved with the mob.”

“Wait a fucking minute,” Edward barked. Bella jumped and scrambled away from him, startled by the tone and volume of his voice. “What exactly do you mean, you’re involved with the mob?”

If she was working for Aro, he may very well have to take her hostage. The thought made bile rise in his throat, and his lip curled in disgust at the knowledge that Aro did that kind of thing without batting an eye. If there had ever been a doubt in his mind that he needed to get away from Aro, there certainly wasn’t one now.

“Your fa . . . Carlisle told me that the man you work for, that Aro guy, he’s in the mob, which means you work for the mob, which means you’re probably going to torture me before you kill me and — oh my God, I had breakfast with you and I thought about kissing you and now I’m going to die,” she sobbed uncontrollably, burying her face in her hands.

Edward blinked repeatedly as his jaw fell open and his mouth went dry. Well then, if that wasn’t a very interesting revelation, he wasn’t sure what was. The fact that Carlisle Cullen knew Aro was part of the mob and that he was aware, thanks to Bella, that Edward was also working for him was definitely going to be a problem. Also, Bella’s revelation had taken him by surprise, because he had sure as hell thought about doing a lot more than just kissing her. Not that now was the time to admit such a thing. At this point he was pretty fucking sure any chance he had of getting anywhere with her was blown since he had technically kidnapped her.

As he watched her shiver and convulse with stilted sobs, he had the sinking feeling that she had no idea what she had gotten herself into. Whoever had lead her to Carlisle had definitely taken advantage of her based on her financial issues. And he was beginning to hate this Carlisle fucker. If what Bella was telling him was true, and the man was his father, he wouldn’t mind stopping by his house to have a few choice words with him, some of which might or might not be spoken with his fist.

“Bella, I need you to calm down,” he said in his softest, most persuasive tone.

Of course this caused her to become increasingly hysterical to the point that she was crying so hard she literally couldn’t breathe. When Edward knelt in front of her she gasped and clamped her hands over her mouth again, her fingers smearing dirt over her cheeks. Her eyes were rimmed red, the whites bloodshot and her cheeks were blotchy.

“Look, I’m sorry about your truck, I really shouldn’t have done that. Carlisle is right; I work for the mob, not because I want to but because I don’t have a choice. The man I work for wouldn’t think twice about putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger if he thought I wasn’t toeing the line.” Edward paused and closed his eyes, unable to deal with the way she wrapped her arms around her body to make herself as small as possible, like he might do the same. “So you can see why I might get a little upset about the fact that the same girl who was in my mother’s house, who I rescued this morning and had a personal conversation with is now also involved with a man my boss hates. And who you’re telling me is my father.”

Bella nodded but didn’t say anything; the only sound that came from her was a stuttering sniffle.

He gave her another minute to get herself back together, watching her the entire time. Her body language was defensive, posture rigid, her head still down as she shuddered occasionally.

“Tell me why you’re working for Carlisle,” Edward asked softly.

Bella sucked in a deep breath. “He-he wanted a housekeeper.”

“A housekeeper?”

She nodded.

“How old are you?” He asked, thinking she was awfully young to be starting a career that was typically performed by women much older that she was.

Her head snapped up and her eyes narrowed into slits, a myriad of emotions passed over her face before she asked, “Why the hell does that matter?”

“Can you please, for the love of God, tell me what the hell you’re doing working for Carlisle Cullen? And stop being so fucking evasive. You think I can’t see it in your face, in the tilt of your goddamn head, or the way your eyes shift up and to the left? Why even bother lying to me?”

“He hired me to get information on your mother and brother,” she replied in an emotionless voice. “And you. When I told him you called her house, he asked me to try and get information about you. He was relieved to know you were alive and beside himself when he found out who you were working for.”

When Edward tried to cut her off she raised her hand and stopped him. “You want me to talk, I’m talking.”

Stunned into silence by the sudden shift in her demeanor, he listened as Bella relayed the series of events: from selling her father’s gun to a guy named Emmett, to meeting Carlisle, and then moving to Seattle to act as housekeeper for Esme and Jasper. Bella even told him about the relationship Carlisle and her father, Charlie, before he had been murdered.

“I had no idea who you were when you stopped to help me this afternoon. It was only afterward that I recognized you from a very old picture your father had of you and you’d been so nice . . . Clearly, I’m a pretty shitty judge of character,” she muttered, trailing off at the end.

Edward rose to his feet, pacing between Bella and his car. “I don’t believe this,” he muttered.

Aro was a conniving son of a bitch, making Edward’s last job one where he would be stealing from his own father. If Carlisle was his father. It wasn’t hard to see how Aro could manipulate him into doing such a thing. The only question now was why, and what the hell was he going to do with Bella in the meantime?

“I’m not lying.”

“I know.”

“Then why . . .?”

“I believe what you’re saying — you’re too terrified to lie, and when you do, it’s painfully obvious,” Edward sighed. “I’m trying to figure out who’s playing what role in this game right now, and I don’t have enough information yet to be able to figure it out.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

There was a long stretch of silence in which Bella sat on the ground and Edward paced the overgrown dirt road in front of his car. The temperature was starting to drop and light was beginning to fade. He needed to get back to his apartment and start planning his next move.

“Come on, you need to get home,” Edward held out a hand to Bella. She looked up at him as if he had two heads.

“Uh, no, thanks. I’ll walk from here.”

“You’ll walk to Seattle?” He raised an eyebrow at her, his expression one of incredulity.

“Yes.”

“No, you won’t. You’ll get lost in the woods and either freeze to death or get eaten by a bear, or worse, some pervert will offer you a ride. Get in the car, Bella.”

“Don’t tell me what to do!” She shot up off the forest floor, getting right in his face. “You’ve destroyed the one last material thing I cared about, kidnapped me, interrogated me in the woods and made me pee my pants. You think I want to get in goddamn car with you? You have to be out of your motherfucking mind!”

Edward crossed his arms over his chest and surveyed her carefully. Her eyes were brimming with tears and her chest heaving as she struggled to breathe. While her words were a testament to her anger, the visible signs of distress made it clear that her bravado was just a front.

“Bella, I really need you to get back in the car. I don’t think you fully understand what Aro is capable of,” Edward replied, trying to reason with her without scaring her more than he already had. “At this point, he could very well have people trailing Carlisle in addition to me. Based on what you’ve just told me, it’s highly likely and there is no way in hell that I can let you walk away from me right now, it’s just too dangerous, not just for me, but for you as well.”

Bella looked at the car, then at the overgrown path leading back to the road before returning her gaze to Edward. Her shoulders slumped further in defeat as her head lowered and she walked toward the car. The extent of her fear was evident; there was a giant dark spot on the back of her jeans that he was well aware, existed on the front as well.

Edward sighed heavily and went around to the trunk, knowing he would have a pair of sweats at the very least for her to wear. As soon as he popped the trunk, Bella turned and ran, sprinting headlong into the forest.

“For Christ’s sake,” Edward grunted, abandoning the car to chase after Bella. It didn’t take him long to catch up to her. He tackled her to the ground as gently as he possibly could, caging her with his arms. Her scream was piercing and desperate as once again she struggled to get free.

“Bella, stop,” Edward grunted into her ear.

“You can’t!” She screamed, “you can’t lock me in the trunk.”

Edward rolled on top of her, trapping her legs between his and pinning her wrists to the ground in order to subdue her. “I was getting you a pair of sweats. I didn’t think you’d want to spend the next three hours in wet jeans,” he panted, holding himself above her.

He could feel every line of her body beneath him. She was fragile, warm, soft. Aside from the quick rise and fall of her chest as she took deep, gasping breaths, her body was utterly still.

“Oh.”

Pushing up off the ground, Edward relieved her of his weight and held a hand out to help her up. She reached for it, tentative and trembling, not meeting his gaze.

“I can’t believe you just tackled me,” she muttered as she released his fingers, brushing dirt and leaves from her shirt.

“If you ran out into the forest, you’d get lost,” he murmured, justifying his actions.

Bella nodded but didn’t respond, choosing instead to focus on picking leaves out of her hair. Careful not to touch her, Edward led her back to the car and found a pair of gray sweatpants. Handing them over, he turned away as he rounded the car, giving her as much privacy as he could. She changed out of her wet jeans and into his sweats. Once she was dressed and in the car, he backed up and drove down the bumpy path, heading toward the main road.

The beginning of the trip back to Seattle was tense. After checking his phone to make sure Aro hadn’t called while he was dealing with the seriously messed up situation he currently faced, he passed the phone to Bella.

“What do you want me to do with this?” Bella asked, an expression of shocked confusion on her face.

“You should call my mother, Esme. Let her know that you’re alright and your car broke down. Someone needs to get you a damn cell phone,” he muttered.

The call took less than two minutes. Bella was brief in her explanation, hesitating only when she lied about who was driving her home. The change in her tone was obvious when her sister was put on the line. She reassured Alice that everything was all right and that she would call when she got home.

“Esme asked that I call her when I get back to Seattle. My sister is already at her house,” she stated the obvious. “Your mom offered to drive Alice home once I get there.” Bella dropped the phone into the center console.

“That’s good,” Edward nodded, relieved that Bella’s younger sister wasn’t in the home alone. He wanted to check for bugs as soon as he got there.

Conversation on the way back to Seattle revolved around speculation. Edward tried to piece together the connection Aro had to his family with the little information he had gleaned from Bella. He knew she was completely overwhelmed, just as he was, but the more information he could get from her regarding her history and her connection to Carlisle, the easier it would be to get to the bottom of things. And to figure out exactly how deep down the rabbit hole they both were.

When they arrived in Bella’s driveway, Edward cleared his throat, wondering how averse she was going to be regarding what he was going to say next.

“I’m going to come in and check your place for wires if you’re cool with that,” Edward phrased it as though he was asking for permission when in reality,he was going to do it regardless whether she acquiesced or not.

“Why?”

“Because if you’re place is tapped, I want to know,” he replied, killing the engine.

Bella stared at him for a moment before she sighed and nodded, looking rather defeated. He followed her to the front door and surveyed the area as he waited for her to find her keys and unlock the door. When he heard the key sliding into the lock he turned back to Bella, following her into the foyer.

The front entrance was decorated in true Esme Masen style, and despite the fact that Edward had had little to no contact with his mother for the past several years, it took him back to his childhood the second he stepped foot in the place. He missed her trademark details, the little knick knacks that she placed on the table in the hallway, the art she hung on the walls.

For the first time in years he felt like he was at home, and it scared the shit out of him.

“So uh . . .” Bella shrugged out of her jacket, frowning at it as she noticed the streaks of dirt on it, a result of Edward’s tackling her to the forest floor.

“Shh,” Edward whispered and put his fingers up to his lips, his eyes traveling of their own accord down her body.

While a large part of him was ‘casing the joint’ the other part of him— the horny, twenty-two year-old part that hadn’t had any action in a damn long time, thanks to his morals and his lack of time to foster any kind of positive relationships — was casing Bella.

His sweats hung low on her hips, the thin, long-sleeved shirt she was wearing under the jacket clung to her like a very flimsy second skin. His dick liked her outfit a lot, so much so that it began to redirect the blood flow from his brain.

Bella looked down, following his gaze, giving him several more precious moments in which to catalog the parts of her body that he enjoyed looking at — which was all of her. Before she could question him, he began moving through the house, systematically checking the house for places where a mini-cam or bugs could be hidden. After twenty minutes, he had swept the house, Bella followed behind him the entire time, hissing at him in hushed tones not to touch this or that. Of course he ignored her, particularly when he rifled through her drawers.

When he was satisfied that her place hadn’t been tapped, he gave her the go ahead to speak.

“I’m going to take a shower,” she exhaled heavily.

“Yeah, alright.”

“So you can go,” she prompted when he continued to nod and stare at her. Edward’s mind had immediately conjured up an image of her dropping his sweats and peeling off that shirt.

“Huh?”

“You can go, now that you’ve checked the house for bugs or cameras or whatever. You can leave, right?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“You don’t think what’s a good idea?”

“I think I should stay here for the night, just to make sure . . .” Edward trailed off, trying to come up with a valid reason not to go back to his apartment that wouldn’t scare the living hell out of her.

“You think . . . ? I don’t . . . You can’t; my sister . . .” She stammered, her eyes darting from his face down to his shoes and back up again.

“Look, I know I make you nervous, but I think I’m a better option than some mob thug hanging around your house in the middle of the night.”

Bella raised a brow at him.

“A real mob thug, Bella,” Edward rolled his eyes.

“We’ll talk about this when I’m done getting clean,” Bella huffed and turned around, stalking up the stairs. She had to hike his sweats up twice on the way, they were so big on her. Edward was lucky enough to get a glimpse of the dimples above her ass in the process.

The slam of a door was followed by the sound of water falling. Edward wandered into the kitchen and checked the fridge. There wasn’t a whole lot of food, but there sure was a lot of milk. He poured a glass and followed it up with a few cookies he found in one of the cupboards.

Once he finished his highly inadequate snack, he flopped down on the living room couch and sank into the comfortable cushions. He found the TV remote and flipped idly through the channels, settling on some ridiculous reality show to occupy his time until Bella came back downstairs. He leaned his head back, his eyes half closed as he tried not think about how she was naked and wet upstairs.

Minutes later she startled him when she whispered his name. He cranked his head in her direction, blinking steadily as his eyes raked over her. Black mahogany hair hung in dripping waves over her shoulders and she was wearing nothing but a towel; a soft, white towel that barely covered the top of her thighs. Edward’s eyes focused there, willing her to pull it more tightly around her, or drop it altogether.

“I thought I heard something upstairs,” she murmured, her eyes wide and terrified.

Edward shot up off the couch, reaching into the back of his jeans to make sure the firearm he had secured before leaving the car was still there.

“Shouldn’t we call 9-1-1?” Bella whispered as he moved past her, toward the stairs.

He had checked the entire house. He was sure he had been thorough, but he certainly wasn’t going to take any chances. “Stay here,” he ordered as he ascended the stairs, pulling the gun out and checking the safety.

He rechecked all the rooms, finding no one. He turned and was about to leave what was clearly Bella’s room when he heard a sound. He raised the gun and spun around, ready to pull the trigger.

Bella raised her hands, effectively releasing the towel from the confines of her hands. Edward watched as it slipped and slid in slow motion down her body, revealing pale skin and full, soft breasts, the peaks of which tightened as the cool air hit them. His eyes followed the descent of the towel, the narrow arrow of short brown curls drawing his gaze to the place he thought of being inside earlier that day.

“Edward!” Bella exclaimed. She said his name a second and third time before she stalked toward him and shoved his shoulder. Edward blinked and found himself looking up into the face of a very confused-looking Bella. Who was not naked.

He looked around the room, slowly becoming aware of the fact that he was not in her bedroom; he was still sitting on the couch. He shook his head. “I must have fallen asleep.”

“Yeah, clearly, you were talking about showing me your sock monkey, whatever the hell that means.” Bella straightened up.

Edward furrowed his brow. Looking at his lap, he realized that his “sock monkey” was trying to beat its way out of his pants. He was so hard. And horny. Stress tended to do that to him. He looked up at Bella, hoping like hell she wouldn’t figure out the highly inappropriate reference to his dick, regardless of whether it was subconscious or not.

Once again he couldn’t help but notice her attire. Bella was dressed for bed and while it wasn’t a sexy negligee in the typical sense of the word, it certainly didn’t leave much in the way of imagination. Bella was wearing skintight hot pink long johns and a long sleeved gray shirt. And she was not wearing a bra. There was no bra.

But there were nipples. Teasing him. Taunting him. Inviting him.

“My sister is going to stay at Esme’s tonight. Apparently she and Jasper passed out on the couch this evening,” Bella told him, either oblivious to his blatant ogling of her nipples or too preoccupied to be appropriately offended. “So I guess that means you can stay in her room. It’s right across the hall from mine.”

Edward had a feeling it was going to be a damn long night.

~~~~

From The Load: Hunterhunting is the kickass author of (among others) the amazing Clipped Wings & Inked Armor and The Misapprehension of Bella Swan. No one in this universe has done more good for cupcakes and beavers than this woman. Check out her profile; it's linked in ours. We're honored to have her as part of The Load.

1 comments:

rebadams7 said...

Soo, twists and turns here, Edward doesn't even know his real father at all.
What happened to this family!
Reb

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