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Thursday, December 22, 2011

On the 2nd Day of Christmas My True Lord Gave To Me...With Erica Ridley and Giveaway

Two Dukes a Dueling - Erica Ridley

Erica Ridley learned to read when she was three, which was about the same time she decided to be a writer when she grew up. Over the course of her school years, she graduated from self-illustrated stories written in crayon to dramatic sagas filling reams of spiral notebooks.

Now, Erica writes Regency-set historical romances, often with a touch of paranormal. Since becoming active in the writing community, all of her manuscripts have finaled in or won various RWA chapter contests. Erica is also the webmistress of her local writing chapter.

When not reading or writing romances, Erica can be found riding camels in Africa, zip-lining through rainforests in Costa Rica, or getting hopelessly lost in the middle of Budapest.
Places to find Erica:


Erica Ridley writes Regency-set historical romances for Kensington Zebra. Too Wicked to Kiss (2010) and Too Sinful to Deny (2011) have a touch of paranormal, and her upcoming novella Never Been Bitten is part of a three author vampire romance anthology called BORN TO BITE releasing in September, 2012.

Because Erica has never cured herself of a singularly striking case of longwindedness, today’s installment quickly became too big to fit on one page. The dueling scene of 2 Dukes a-Dueling is featured for you below.

If you would like to start at the beginning and read the entire story, all 26 pages are on Erica’s website at ericaridley.com.

Miss Selene Bowen longs to marry the dashing (if human) duke of her dreams, Lord Lucas Fenrir. But her father rules London with a clockwork fist, and his political machinations involve betrothing his daughter to her best friend, vampire Lord Desmond Paole. Knowing Lucas is brooding atop the garden terrace at Selene’s father’s soiree, Des decides to sneak Selene outside and behave inappropriately in order to help Selene spark a fire beneath her one-time beau, Lord Fenrir. The ruse works far too well, particularly when Selene’s father stumbles upon them…

(If you prefer not to read the final scene first, the whole story can be found at ericaridley.com)

Just as Lucas’s silhouette moved from the railing to the stairway, heavy footfalls pounded up the steps. A new voice rang from the shadows. Papa.

“What is the meaning of this ruckus, Fenrir?”

Please don’t point at the garden. Please don’t point at the garden, Selene thought desperately.
Lucas pointed at the garden.

Damn.

“Lord Paole thought to steal a kiss from your daughter,” Lucas explained briskly. “I intend to correct his mistake.”

Desmond hesitated, then redoubled his grip on Selene’s hair. She glared up at him and opened her mouth to retort when she realized the predicament in which her best friend now found himself.

He sought to impress her father, the most notoriously pitiless, calculating, power-hungry man in all of London. Papa never apologized nor retreated, under any circumstances. If Desmond backed off now—or worse, tried to laugh off the confrontation as a harmless misunderstanding—he would lose face in her father’s eyes forever.

But Desmond could not afford the slightest dip in her father’s esteem. Not now, when he was hoping to be chosen as leader of her father’s army. Papa would prize ruthlessness over pacification. Any hint at compromise would be perceived as weakness. Desmond could only go forward.

“Allow me to correct your mistake, Fenrir. I did not intend to kiss the mayor’s daughter.” He flashed his fangs. “I intend to bite her.”

Selene bit back a groan. Lucas had been coldly furious even before her father’s intrusion upon the terrace. With Desmond’s latest challenge to fuel the fire, Lucas would be murderous.

“I will have your blood for that insolence.” Lucas’s voice was forged steel. “Release her at once… and plan to meet me at dawn. We will settle this as men.”

Without hesitation, Desmond nodded. “Very well.”

He released her hair. Selene twisted before him so that only he could see her face. “At dawn, you imbecile? You could die!”

“So could Fenrir,” Desmond pointed out reasonably. “I’m just trying to even the playing field.”

She gasped in outrage. “Surely you don’t mean to aim a weapon at him!”

Desmond’s brows arched. “What happened to ‘oh no, Des, you could die!’?”

Her blood spiked so rapidly she could no longer feel the bite of the wind.

“I swear to God,” she bit out carefully, “if you so much as spill a drop of Lucas’s blood, I will never—”

“Don’t get wound up.” He smiled at his own jest. “I shall obviously shoot to miss, Selene. Sunlight or no, anything less would be dishonorable.”

She was still glaring up at Desmond when her father’s voice rang out over the terrace.

“Why wait until morning?” Papa boomed. “I have a plethora of weaponry here at the house. Musket or pistol, gentlemen?”

Of course he did. Of course he would. Selene’s hands fisted in frustration. Could she challenge her own father to a pre-duel?

“A musket would be lovely,” Desmond called back cheerfully. “So kind of you to offer, sir.”

Selene trod upon his toes, then turned to face the terrace.

Both Lucas and Papa were at the railing. The disintegrating clouds allowed just enough moonlight to see their faces. Papa looked delighted by the turn of events, as if he wished he had thought of such a match himself, so as to better whittle down the candidates for military leadership.



“Pistol,” he said at last. He did not meet Selene’s terrified eyes. Instead, he turned and followed Papa into the darkness.

“Splendid,” Selene said to no one in particular, then cut her gaze to Desmond. “What are you going to do?”

“I told you,” he said wearily. “I shall aim significantly to the left.”

“No, you dunce. What are you going to do about the incoming bullet?”

“Ah.” He grinned. “I, too, shall leap significantly to my left.”

Selene clapped her hands over her face and sighed.

“Then,” Desmond continued, “when we have both honorably and manfully tried and failed to mortally wound the other, your father will think us both of such poor aim that neither one of us will ever spend a single moment bearing his banner on the battlefield. Happy now, madam?”

“Deliriously.”

She straightened at the sound of footsteps approaching the open garden doors. It did not sound like Lucas and Papa returning with a pair of guns. It sounded like Lucas and Papa returning with an armed battalion.

“Oh, marvelous.” Desmond groaned. “The entire guest list has elected to bear witness to my imminent humiliation.”

Selene gulped. He was exactly right.

Papa marched merrily forth, musket in hand. Lucas strode unhesitatingly at his side, although Selene could have sworn she saw him cast doubtful glances at both the spectators and the sky, as if he expected disaster to rain forth from either quarter.

“Stand beneath the terrace, daughter.” Papa’s voice was quiet, but brooked no argument. “I wish you out of harm’s way, but still within full sight of this duel being fought in your honor.”

Selene took a slow, if shaky, breath and complied. She tried to shoot desperate, speaking glances at both Desmond and Lucas, but neither one would meet her eye. They were both too busy positioning themselves at the appropriate distance to blow each other’s heads off.

The last of the clouds disappeared, bathing the entirety of the scene in stark white light.

Desmond, idly adjusting his cravat at one end of the garden, looked every inch the carefree, debonair vampire he wished the world to see, and not at all the courageous would-be warrior whose future on the battlefield hinged on the outcome of this performance.

Lucas, at the other end of the garden, stood slightly hunched, as if his muscles had expanded in accordance with his rage and strained at the delicate hems sewn by his tailor. He had always been devastatingly handsome and larger-than-life, but he seemed even more so tonight. Not just taller, not just stronger, but somehow more feral than ever before. The thick stubble along his unshaven jaw could not hide the cold determination in the set of his chin, and his dark eyes glittered in the moonlight like those of a hungry predator stalking his prey.

“On three,” Papa announced. To the surprise and delight of the crowd, he turned to address his daughter.

“When you’re ready, Selene.”

Her entire body erupted in gooseflesh. Count down when she was ready? Was he mad? She would never be ready. She would stand here beneath the terrace, silently holding court until the grass grew too tall to see across, if that’s what it took to stop this duel.

Lucas’s eyes met her gaze at last. She held her breath.

He gave the slightest shake of his head. Someone who did not know him as well as she did might not have registered the movement at all, but Selene and Lucas had always enjoyed an oddly fluent silent communication.

He did not want her to stall. His honor as well as hers was now at stake. Hesitation on her part implied lack of faith in her champion. She would not give him that doubt.

“One.”

Her voice was too soft, and cracked halfway through the word, but both Lucas and Desmond lifted their weapons as if she had shouted the command.

“T-two.”

The entire house party fell silent, Papa included.

Everyone must have heard her stutter but, for the moment, the daughter of the mayor was the least of their concerns. All gazes were firmly fixed on the two armed lords who had now assumed their shooting stances and whose trigger fingers were now positioned to fire. Even the precision of her clockwork heart could not keep Selene’s knees from weakening as she spoke the final word.

“Three.”

Twin shots fired simultaneously. Both men dodged aside so quickly as to be a blur before her eyes.
And both men stared at their chests with twin expressions of shocked disbelief. They’d leapt directly into the paths of their opponent’s bullet!

Selene staggered backward. The entire farce was her fault. She could not stifle her scream. Bullets inflicted no permanent damage upon vampires. Desmond would survive.

Lucas, however… Lucas was human. His mortal body could never withstand a bullet to the heart. She started to run toward him, then stumbled to a halt.

He hadn’t fallen. He stood without swaying, one hand loosely dangling the forgotten pistol, the other hand clapped across his heart. Bright red blood seeped through the white lawn of his dress shirt, the champagne silk of his waistcoat, the bare skin of his splayed fingers.

The moon swelled as if to illuminate the horror even further. The bloodstained bullet eased out of his chest, pushing between his fingers to fall inexorably, impossibly, to his feet.

And then his shirt hems rent free.

His jacket and waistcoat fluttered to the grass in tatters. His muscles flexed beneath an unmistakable growth of—fur?!

Lucas’s jaw cracked and elongated. His ears and cheekbones sharpened. His snarling mouth was filled with razor sharp teeth. Elongated fingers clawed the pink-stained cravat from his neck, ripping away the last of his shirtsleeves, and leaving his well-muscled (and lightly furred) torso wholly visible to the swooning onlookers.

“You shot me.” The growl was barely recognizable as human words.

Desmond’s spluttered retort was scarcely more coherent around his own protruding fangs. “You’re a bloody werewolf, you brooding, secretive, sonofawhore.”

“You dared to attempt your disgusting vampiric kiss with Selene, devilspawn!”

“Ha! I was so worried about killing you, and all this time you were a godforsaken wild dog masquerading as human—”

They tossed their weapons aside and launched themselves at each other, colliding mid-air.

Desmond’s fangs grazed Lucas’s exposed shoulder, drawing blood. Lucas tossed him through the air, renting his claws through Desmond’s elegant waistcoat in the process. Desmond landed hard, but bounded instantly to his feet, pausing only to spit blood and fur upon the dead grass before relaunching himself at Lucas.

“Stop!” Selene screamed as soon as she found her voice. She could barely process the scene before her, but one thing was clear: the shots might be over, but the combatants were still intent on killing each other. If she started the duel, perhaps she had the power to finish it. Wide-eyed, she sought her father among the crowd.

“Papa? Do something!”

To her surprise, he gave her a sharp nod and raised his voice above the slashing teeth and punishing fists. “Enough.”

Lucas and Desmond rolled to a stop. Desmond was beneath, mouth open and fangs bared. Lucas was atop, one fist curled in a choking grip on Desmond’s cravat, his other arm cocked to deliver a blow to Desmond’s head.

After a moment, Lucus lowered his arm and released his chokehold. In a single graceful leap, he sprang off his opponent and to his feet. He arched his back and shivered, sending thick chestnut fur rippling in the moonlight.

His eyes fluttered closed. His chest expanded even wider, as if Lucas were inhaling deeply, then ever so slowly he relaxed. His ears and cheekbones began to lose their sharpness. His jaw cracked and contracted as his teeth resumed their usual shape and number. The dark, shiny fur began to retract until all that was visible was Lucas’s scandalously bare (and, Selene couldn’t help but note, still deliciously muscled) stomach and chest.

He held out a perfectly human hand to Desmond.

Desmond ignored him.

Des took his time in deciding to retract his aggressively protruding fangs. He took even more time smoothing the frayed edges of his ruined waistcoat and folding and refolding his hopelessly soiled cravat. At last, he accepted the proffered hand, although he leapt to his feet so nimbly it was clear that outside assistance had not been required.

“I despise you,” Desmond informed Lucas matter-of-factly, without releasing the hand from his grip.

“Likewise,” Lucas rejoined with a grudging smile. They shook on it.

Selene could have killed them both.

“A draw,” Papa announced with a mighty flourish. “Perhaps the first satisfying one I have ever seen.”

Selene could have killed him, too.

Both the bruised-but-hale combatants stared at her father in surprise.

“You—” Desmond shook his head as if to clear it.

Lucas didn’t even bother hiding his shock. “But I thought you’d never approve of—”

“Nonsense,” Papa interrupted, striding forward. “Desmond, my boy, in the two decades you’ve been in my employ, you have never once faltered in loyalty nor fearlessness. Over the years, my respect for you has only grown.” He turned to look Lucas in the eye. “As for you, Lord Fenrir, at first I had my doubts. But tonight, you fought willingly and eagerly against tremendously unfavorable odds. As a soldier, Desmond Paole has no equal. Not even a werewolf. Yet you were willing to risk your life in the defense of my daughter.” Papa shook his head, as if he could scarce believe his own insights. “Your love for Selene is real.”

“Yet still not good enough.” Lucas’s dark eyes never wavered from her father’s.

Papa shrugged unapologetically. “I want more for my daughter than mere love.”

“You want superhuman relatives,” Lucas said bitterly. “I could provide all the fur you wish, but I want to be chosen—to be loved—for who I am. I am not just a werewolf. I am a person. Who hurts and thinks and feels.”

“Do not confuse what I want for my army with what I want for my family,” Papa said sharply. He glanced over at Selene before returning his gaze to Lucas. He reassumed his most imperial tones. “You had too much self-doubt to lead my army, and too much self-doubt to [fight/buck] me over Selene’s hand. I see now that you have grown, not just in body, but in spirit. You have come into your own. Not as a werewolf, but as a man. Selene, if you still desire his affections… I shall allow him to pay court.”

Lucas blinked. “You… what?”

Papa’s bearing remained military-stiff. His attention remained upon his daughter. “I promise nothing, mind, but if the two of you—”

Selene was off and running before her father had a chance to start pontificating again. She launched herself into Lucas’s arms. When she collected herself, she wiped her tears against his bare neck, inspected the already-healed wound on his chest, shook him senseless for being so incredibly stubborn, then pressed an open-mouthed kiss to his warm lips.

When he responded with enough heat to melt the gears whirring in her chest, the on-looking crowd erupted in cheers and catcalls.

Reminded of where they were, she pulled far enough back to glare over Lucas’s shoulder at her father. “If your acceptance of our love means you think for one second that I will allow you to strip me of my husband and place him at the head of your troops, I will personally—”

“Not him, daughter.” Papa turned to offer his hand to Desmond. “Desmond Paole, will you do me the honor of personally leading our troops to victory?”

For the second time that evening, Des stared at a proffered hand as if he had absolutely no idea what it was doing before him. Suddenly, his handsome face broke into a smile radiant enough to rival the light of the moon. He grabbed Papa’s hand with both of his and began pumping his agreement so enthusiastically, Selene was afraid her father would be in need of a clockwork arm to replace a shattered human one.

She couldn’t resist giving Lucas another kiss.

He sank to his knees before her, clasping both of Selene’s hands in his. The moonlight played across his upturned face and bare chest, causing a tell-tale trail of dark shadows rather than illuminating smooth white flesh. Selene could scarcely believe her eyes, or her ears, or the warm strength emanating from his hands to hers.

He was a werewolf. He was in love. He was hers.

“Selene,” he began softly, “my one true love.” He glanced up at her with unchecked vulnerability in his eyes, as if even now, even still, his entire future hinged on how she might respond to his next question. “Will you make me the happiest man who ever prowled this planet by please consenting to be my wife?”

Rather than pull him to his feet, she tumbled joyfully into his arms. “You bet your life.”

She smiled.

He kissed her.

And her clockwork heart swelled with love.

###

TOO TEMPTING TO OBJECT...

One look at the towering ocean-side manor that is to be her new home, and exiled socialite Susan Stanton knows: This is a place haunted by secrets and riddled with menace.

For Susan, there is no escaping it. At best she can stay clear of the most dangerous element of all--dark-haired smuggler Evan Bothwick, a man whose shaded countenance cannot hide his wicked intent.

But Susan has a secret of her own--a special gift that renders her privy to the darkest mysteries lurking within the walls of the manor and in the labyrinthine cellars beneath. And the only man who can help her make sense of it all is Evan, the very scoundrel and rogue she would do anything to be able to resist...

Places to purchase:

**Giveaway**

Erica is giving away a copy of Too Sinful To Deny to 1 lucky winner. So make sure to leave a comment and fill out the Rafflecopter form. 

And don't forget to head over to Not Another Romance Blog and check out author Gayle Callen's special scene! 

**Grand Prize Giveaway**

On behalf of myself, Rita and lots of awesome authors, we will be having one BIG Grand Prize given away to 1 lucky winner. The grand prize consists of a mix of books, swag, and lots of other secret goodies. Believe me, you want to enter to win this prize. Just make sure to leave a comment everyday on each post on both blogs and fill out this FORM. That's it. Super easy!



Good luck and Happy Holidays!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

39 comments :

  1. Hi Erica

    I don't usually read paranormal but I enjoyed your scene. I have some friends who do read paranormal and I'll be recommending your books to them.

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  2. Thank you so much. That was great.
    vsloboda(at)gmail(dot)com

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  3. AHHH the book sounds so good!! Want to read it so bad!!:D :(

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Thanks so much for having me here today! This has been a lot of fun.

    I just posted the whole story on my website at ericaridley.com if you'd like to start from the beginning and read the whole thing! ;-)

    Thanks again to Dani and Rita!

    p.s.
    Sorry about previous deleted comment... #linkfail. Time for caffeine! =)

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  6. this sound great, i love HR and Paranormalcy ;)

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  7. Wow, that last sentence: And her clockwork heart swelled with love. Love it!

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  8. Great scene-- I look forward to reading more of your work, as I haven't yet had the pleasure of doing so. But I am off to put them on my list! :D Great cover for this novel, by the way, I love it.

    Also, am I the only one that doesn't see the rafflecopter on this post?!

    Enjoy!
    TBQ
    The_Book_Queen AT yahoo DOT com
    http;//tbqspersonalbookpalace.blogspot.com

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  9. I like paranormal romances and definitely enjoyed Erica's scene, thanks!

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  10. Very strange, I came back a few times, I don't see the Rafflecopter Form in this post. It did work in the older posts.

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  11. EEEEE steampunk dueling! Love it. Thanks for a great scene, Erica!

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  12. Thanks for the giveaway.
    klepard94(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  13. Thanks for the scene and have a nice holiday.

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  14. Terrific giveaway and terrific excerpt!

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  15. I really enjoyed the short scene! I would love to read a full story with these characters. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  16. This one sounds very interesting - a bit different from what I've read. Happy Holidays!
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

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  17. What a great scene. Love it when two paranormal forces face each other. Fantastic!

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  18. Paranormal romance is my favorite genre. Sounds like I've got a new author to add to my must buy list.

    drainbamaged.gyzmo at gmail.com

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  19. Great scene! As always I look forward to your next release.

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  20. Loved it! Every bit!

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  21. I love the combination of the historical with the paranormal as those are my two favorites. :) Great scene!

    Pam

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  22. I enjoyed the scene, especially since I really enjoy historical romance with paranormal elements. Two favorites in one book, can't beat that.

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  23. I can't wait to read Erica's books. Ooh, I want to try zip-lining.

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  24. That was fun! Thanks for sharing.

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  25. I love paranormals, but had not read any steam punk before this. I will have to find some to read now. I liked this and would like to read more. Have a great holiday!

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  26. Sounds like quite the love triangle forming...an interesting mix. I am intrigued after reading the excerpt.

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  27. Another great short story! I LOVE historical romance followed closely by paranormal so this one has the "best of both worlds"! Definitely WANT to read more!

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  28. Paranormal steampunk? I enjoyed the scene, but I need to head over to your site to read the rest. Happy Holidays!

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  29. I loved the excerpt. I'll be going to your site to read it all. :) Thanks for the opportunity.
    Happy Holidays
    Carol L
    Lucky470 (at) aol (dot) com

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  30. GFC follower under Lucky47. Email subscriber.
    Carol L
    Lucky470 (at) aol (dot) com

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  31. What a wonderful excerpt. I do like my men a little hairy. lol

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  32. sounds great!!

    maria

    chilosa_2004 at yahoo dot com

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  33. Thank you for the great piece, I enjoyed reading it a lot! ;-) You are a new to me author, but am adding you now to my wishlist!

    Merry Chrismas! :-)

    stella.exlibris (at) gmail (dot) com

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  34. What a great excerpt. Erica is a new author for me and would love to win and read this book. I love to read and always looking for new books and authors to check out. Thanks for the chance to win.
    christinebails@yahoo.com

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  35. What a great story! Can't wait to read more of your work. Thanks for the giveaway.

    Merry Christmas to all!!

    pnc07 (at) aol (dot) com

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  36. Thanks for the lovely read. Happy holidays to all!

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  37. Thanks for the interesting story.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

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  38. You are a new to me author and I really enjoyed the above scene!

    Catslady5(at)aol.com

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