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A Marriage To Remember

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«A Marriage To Remember» - Кэрол Мортимер

Divorce vs. DesireThree years ago Adam Carmichael had walked out on Maggi when she needed him most. Now he was back, to pick up their marriage where he'd left off – or so he thought! Maggi's first reaction was to finalize their divorce, but Adam refused point-blank. Maggi became furious – not with Adam, but with herself, because, to her dismay, part of her was relieved!Torn between divorce and desire, Maggi knew she should follow her head, not her heart. But Adam wasn't going to let her go without a fight. Carole Mortimer"delivers quality romance." – Romantic Times
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About the Author Books by Carole Mortimer Title Page Dedication CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE CHAPTER SIX CHAPTER SEVEN CHAPTER EIGHT CHAPTER NINE CHAPTER TEN CHAPTER ELEVEN CHAPTER TWELVE Copyright

“I’m your husband!”

“You were never that.”

“We were married for two years—”

“I was married for two years,” she corrected him vehemently. “You were still Adam Carmichael, stud extraordinaire!”

His hand gripped her wrist. “Don’t start believing all the drivel you’ve read about me—”

“I didn’t need to read about it, Adam, I lived it!”

CAROLE MORTIMER says: “I was born in England, the youngest of three children—I have two older brothers. I started writing in 1978, and have now written over ninety books for Harlequin Presents.

”I have four sons—Matthew, Joshua, Timothy and Peter—and a bearded collie dog called Merlyn. I’m in a very happy relationship with Peter senior. We’re best friends as well as lovers, which is probably the best recipe for a successful relationship. We live on the Isle of Man.”

Books by Carole Mortimer

HARLEQUIN PRESENTS

1793—THE ONE AND ONLY

1823—TWO’S COMPANY

1863—ONE-MAN WOMAN

1894—WILDEST DREAMS

Don’t miss any of our special offers. Write to us at the following address for information on our newest releases.

Harlequin Reader Service

U.S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P O. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269

Canadian: P.O. Box 609, Fort Ene, Ont. L2A 5X3

A Marriage to Remember

Carole Mortimer



www.millsandboon.co.uk

For Peter

CHAPTER ONE

HE STOOD at the back of the dimly lit, smoke-filled room, unnoticed by the crowd, especially the noisy people clamouring for attention at the bar beside him. But that was all right—they were completely unnoticed by him too.

Because he knew that as soon as the woman standing on the slightly raised dais across at the other side of the room began to sing again the crowd would forget their need for a drink, would fall into a hushed silence once more as they forgot everything but listening to the music.

She had been on stage for almost half an hour now, and it was the same each time she began to sing a new song; a pin could have been heard dropping amongst the appreciative audience. It was easy to understand why. She was good. Very good. As good as she ever had been, the haunting sensuality of her voice reaching out and touching a chord in the heart of each person in the room. She sang of love.

Betrayed love. And yet there was also hope in her words. Hope of survival. And there was a joy in life itself. In the mere gift of life.

Where had she found such joy?

How?

Who with?

It was this last agonising question that ripped into him like the sharpness of a knife, that held him mesmerised as he stood silently watching the haunting beauty of her face.

Then the room fell silent around him once more as she began to lightly strum her guitar; it was an expectant silence, as if everyone in the room had suddenly held their breath at the same time.

He knew why. He too recognised those opening chords. And the words as she began to sing. It was a song he hadn’t heard for a long time. A long, long time.

Their song...

CHAPTER TWO

HE WAS in the room. She couldn’t see him. Had no idea where he was. She only knew she could feel him here. Somewhere.

She had felt his presence almost from the moment she had walked out in front of the audience, at first berating herself for her imaginings; it was ridiculous, after all this time, to feel that way. There was no logical reason to believe such a thing. But the feeling had persisted, to such an extent that she was now convinced he was definitely in the room. Listening to her.

It was incredible that she should feel like this. It was the first time she had sung in public for over three years; why would he be here?

But he was. She knew he was, had become more and more convinced of it as she continued to sing. She had looked searchingly through the crowd to see if she could recognise him, but it was difficult to see into the gloom beyond her spotlight. There were just silhouettes of people, with no distinguishing features at all.

She didn’t want to recognise him anyway. What was the point? It was all so long ago now. She was different He was different. Their lives were different.

But he was here...!

Her heart pounded in her chest—loudly, it seemed to her, as she began to play her final song for the evening, strumming the introduction on her guitar before she began to pick out the more recognisable chorus.

She wished the song weren’t in the programme now, wished she had chosen to end with any other song but this one. But it was the song she was known for, the song people remembered her for. And she hadn’t sung it in public for a long, long time.

Their song...

CHAPTER THREE

‘YOU were brilliant, Maggi! Absolutely brilliant,’ Mark enthused, his eyes shining. ‘I—’

‘Adam is here.’ She flatly cut across his enthusiastic exuberance, automatically handing him her guitar for him to put it away in the waiting case.

Mark froze in the action, frowning darkly. ‘Adam...

?’ he repeated disbelievingly.

‘Can we just get out of here?’ she said agitatedly, pushing back the swathe of long straight hair that had fallen over the slenderness of one shoulder—hair as black as a raven’s wing.

‘But—’

‘Now, Mark!’ Maggi insisted firmly, snapping shut her guitar case before picking it up in preparation for leaving the room she had retreated to after leaving the stage seconds ago.

He still didn’t move, smiling at her sympathetically, well aware of the strain she had been under tonight. ‘I understand how you feel, Maggi.’ He squeezed her arm. ‘But Adam can’t be here—’

‘I’m telling you he is!’ she bit out between gritted teeth, deep blue eyes flashing a warning of just how close to breaking point she was. In fact, if they didn’t get out of this club soon, she was going to scream! Adam was here somewhere—she just knew he was—and he was the last person she wanted to see tonight, of all nights. ‘I know how unlikely it is,’ she acknowledged heavily. ‘How ridiculous it sounds. But, believe me, he is here!’

She’d had trouble believing it herself as she was singing, had thought it was perhaps just her imagination; after all, in the past Adam had always been with her when she sang. In fact, it had seemed strange to her, at the start of this evening, that he wasn’t there. But she had been wrong about that; he had been here, and she had become more and more convinced of that as the minutes passed. She had barely been able to suppress her panic in order to finish her spot on stage, and she desperately wanted to get away now, didn’t want to actually be put in a position where she would have to see him. Knowing he was here was enough...!

Mark frowned again. ‘But listen to that audience, Maggi.’ The applause could still be heard from the adjoining club-room. ‘They want you back on stage.’

The audience, a welcoming audience earlier this evening, were going wild, calling her name, demanding she come back and sing them another song. But she couldn’t do it. Not now she was convinced Adam was out there too.

She shook her head, her small, heart-shaped face as pale as alabaster against the framing blackness of her hair. ‘Maybe tomorrow night, Mark,’ she dismissed huskily. ‘I’ve had enough for one evening.’

It had been a strain for her, going back in front of an audience after all this time, which was why this particular venue, as opposed to a big concert hall, had been chosen in the first place: a music festival in a small town in the north of England, where her name could be lost amongst those of other artists appearing in the three-day event. The venues were informal— clubs, pubs, meeting-rooms—with several concerts taking place at the same time. It was exactly the right sort of place for Maggi to make her first public reappearance.

Or at least it would have been—if she hadn’t been utterly convinced that Adam was out there in the audience. Watching her. The very last person she wanted near her during her first public appearance for three years!

Mark looked at her closely, finally nodding his agreement to their leaving as he recognised the signs of strain around her eyes and mouth. ‘You’ve done well for your first night, Maggi,’ he told her with bright encouragement as they turned to leave. ‘But you’ll do even better tomorrow night—because by then it will be all around the festival that you’re back and greater than ever!’ he said confidently.

She wasn’t too sure about the latter, although she had to concede that the audience had been an appreciative one. She had been very nervous when she’d begun her spot for the evening, but from the onset had felt the audience’s warmth reaching out to her, welcoming her, and that nervousness had almost completely disappeared as they’d clapped and cheered after each song. Yes; this festival had been a good choice as a place for her to resume her career.

If only she didn’t have that nagging, uneasy feeling inside her that told her Adam was near...

Mark covered her own numbed silence on the journey back to their hotel by talking all the time, obviously pleased with the way the evening had gone. He had good reason to be; without his help and constant encouragement this evening would probably never have happened. Mark had been her emotional support over the last few years, always there when she needed a boost to her flagging morale; for his sake alone she was pleased that this appearance seemed to have gone so well.

They had chosen to stay in a big impersonal hotel just outside of town rather than in one of the busier places actually in the centre, where, for all that she had disappeared from the music scene for the last three years, it was likely she would be recognised by people attending the festival. She was nervous enough already, without having to put on a front for people who might want to talk to her.

‘The key to your suite, Miss Fennell?’ The receptionist gave her a bright, welcoming smile before turning to take the key from the hook behind her. ‘Oh, and something arrived for you earlier, but I’m afraid you had already left the hotel when it was delivered...’

Maggi paled as the other woman turned back to hand her a long, cellophane-wrapped box decorated with a red ribbon, already able to guess, from its appearance alone, exactly what it contained. A single red rose...

‘Thank you.’ Mark was the one to almost snatch the box out of the receptionist’s hands, clasping Maggi’s elbow with his other hand as he walked her over to the lift, looking down at her in concern as he did so.

Her eyes were huge in the paleness of her face, deeply blue and haunted. She was expressionless, too shocked to feel anything at this precise moment in time. It hadn’t been her imagination at all that Adam was here. He really was. The rose proved that.

Always, in the past, on the night of a performance, Adam would arrange for a single red rose to be delivered to her dressing-room at the start of the evening. As he had arranged for one to be brought to her hotel this evening...

He knew where she was staying!

Her expression was panicked as she turned to the man at her side. ‘Mark—’

‘It’s all right, Maggi,’ he soothed as he let them both into the suite. ‘It’s only a rose.’ Even as he spoke he smoothly dropped the red-ribbon-wrapped box into the bin just inside the sitting-room. ‘As easily disposed of as that,’ he added with satisfaction.

Maggi conceded that the flower might be easily disposed of, but she knew the man who’d sent it wasn’t. At least, the memory of him wasn’t. She had spent the last three years attempting to bury every memory of him—and the single act of sending her a red rose had brought all those memories flooding back. And the pain that went along with them.

Mark watched her as she slowly sat down in one of the armchairs. He was a tall, dark-haired man, a couple of years older than Maggi’s own twenty-six.

‘Maggi, don’t let him ruin this for you.’ Mark came down on his haunches beside her chair to take her hands into his much larger ones. Her fingers were chilled against his, despite the relative warmth of the autumn evening. ‘God knows, he’s already taken enough from you!’ he added with grim fierceness.

She swallowed hard, trying to rid herself of feelings of nausea. While there had still been some doubt, while she had been able to half convince herself she was imagining Adam’s presence tonight, to tell herself she had just thought he was there because he always had been in the past, she had been able to keep her emotions under control. But now there was no doubt...!

She looked at Mark with haunted eyes. ‘Why is he here, Mark?’ Her voice was huskily soft, filled with pain.

His hands tightened about hers. ‘Why was he ever anywhere?’ he returned bitterly, shaking his head. ‘If not to cause trouble?’

‘But why?’ she groaned brokenly. ‘What did I ever do to him that he should want to hurt me again now?’

She hadn’t seen or heard from Adam in three years, and yet the first time she made a public appearance... How could he do this to her, after all he had already done in the past?

‘That’s it, Maggi,’ Mark encouraged as he saw the flash of anger that suddenly lightened her eyes. ‘Don’t get sad, get mad! That bastard has caused you enough damage without trying to ruin this for you too!’

Mark was right, and despite her nervousness earlier this evening, about appearing in public again, she had also been looking forward to it in a way, to seeing if she could really still do it. And she had. She could!

That red rose might have shaken her, but Mark was also right when he said she couldn’t let that take any of her earlier triumph away from her. She had another two days of the festival to get through, when, she admitted, there was a possibility of bumping into Adam. But she was at least aware of his presence now, was prepared for it, even if she accepted that facing him again would probably be the hardest thing she would ever have to do in her life.

But she could do it. She had survived, had got through the initial difficulty of this evening too; she could certainly get through seeing Adam again.

She squared her shoulders determinedly, giving Mark a bright smile. ‘Let’s order a bottle of champagne to celebrate this evening!’ She stood up, determined to shake off the despondency that had fallen upon them both since they had seen the rose.

Mark stood up too, grinning, obviously relieved she had decided to rise to the occasion. ‘I thought you would never ask!’

They were both acting a role. Maggi accepted that, knew that with the worry of Adam’s presence somewhere in the area neither of them particularly felt like celebrating anything. But it was a role both of them were going to play, and, without another glance at the box containing the rose, Maggi telephoned Room Service to order the champagne.

Thoughts of Adam could come later, when she couldn’t put them off any longer. For the moment she only wanted to think of the success of the evening just gone. And to share that success with Mark.

‘The place is packed, Maggi!’ Mark told her excitedly the following evening as she stood waiting to go out on stage.

She could hear the sound of the audience talking loudly together as they waited for her to make an appearance, knew by the volume of noise that the large civic hall, where she was to perform tonight, must indeed be very full.

‘I told you this was what would happen once people heard of your success last night,’ Mark continued happily. ‘You’re on your way back, Maggi!’ He gave her a hug.

Her way back to where? That was what she was starting to worry about. She had been working hard towards this weekend—a long, uphill struggle that she had finally won. But if it meant she might have to see Adam again...

That was something that had never even entered her head, not at the beginning, or during those past months of planning. She’d had no reason to suppose he would want to see her again, any more than she wanted to see him. But last night he had sent that red rose...

And tonight, before she and Mark had left the hotel, there had been another rose, letting her know more forcefully than anything else could have done that Adam knew she was singing again this evening.

‘Try to look more cheerful about it,’ Mark reproved her now frowningly. ‘This is what you’ve worked so hard for.’

He was right; she knew he was. She couldn’t let Adam spoil this for her. As he had spoilt so many things before...

She had been in trepidation earlier today that Adam might turn up at the hotel looking for her. But the time had passed in relative peace, their food delivered by Room Service, she and Mark only leaving the suite for a couple of hours this afternoon to go and luxuriate in the hotel pool—and she had started to relax.

But would Adam be out there again tonight? It was logical to assume he probably would be; it was listed in the festival’s weekend programme exactly when and where she would be playing over the three-day period. It was the thought of him standing silently in the audience watching her, when she couldn’t see him—as she still felt sure he had been last night!—that was so unnerving to her. The second single rose that had been delivered to the hotel earlier seemed to be a promise of that, despite Mark’s protestations that she should just forget about it, forget about Adam. He knew better than most how she had tried to do that—he must also know how impossible she had found it to do!

Mark grasped her firmly by the tops of her arms, forcing her to look up into his boyishly handsome face. ‘Remember, Maggi, don’t get sad, get mad,’ he reminded her. ‘Don’t give Adam the satisfaction of ruining anything else for you.’

It came as no surprise to her that Mark knew exactly what—who!—was bothering her, they had always been close, but even more so recently, with Mark often seeming to know what she was thinking before she was aware of it herself.

‘You’re right.’ She straightened determinedly, a diminutive figure dressed completely in black: flat ankle boots, denims, a silk shirt open at the throat, and her long, almost waist-length hair cascading down her spine. Long silver earrings dangled against her neck, the only jewellery she wore; her slender wrists and hands were completely bare of adornment. She reached up to kiss Mark lightly on the cheek. ‘Time to go on!’ She gave him a brightly reassuring smile.

The hall was much bigger than the club last night, but as Maggi stepped out onto the stage she could see it was packed with people—people who began to clap and cheer as soon as they saw her. Her nervousness instantly fell away at this spontaneous reception, professionalism taking over, and she smiled confidently at the crowd as she began to play the opening chords to her first song.

She tried not to search the sea of faces as she performed, dreading and yet looking for that all too familiar face. But there were so many people here tonight, so many positive responses coming her way as she sang song after song, that in the end she had to give up looking. It would serve no useful purpose even if she could locate Adam in the crowd. In fact, it would have the opposite effect!

She was on for longer tonight, over an hour in all, and it felt like old times as she enjoyed herself as much as the audience obviously did.

And then the catastrophe happened!

It wasn’t such an unusual thing. Wasn’t really such a catastrophe. It was just the last thing she would have wanted to happen this evening. A string broke on the guitar she was playing—her favourite guitar. Her spare guitar was out in the room she had waited in earlier before coming on stage.

She glanced across at Mark where he stood in the wings watching her, acknowledging his nod of understanding before he strode off to get her other guitar, and turned to put her useless instrument back on the stand behind her. She would just have to sing the next song unaccompanied.

There was a ripple of sympathy amongst the audience as they recognised her dilemma, and they gave her an encouraging round of applause before she began to sing. Her voice was clear, the trueness of the notes reaching every corner of the room, and the silence was appreciative as the hush washed over the hall.

Then Maggi realised she was no longer singing unaccompanied, and that she recognised the guitar work she could hear only too well.

She turned sharply to her left, only to have her worst suspicions confirmed as to exactly why the audience had suddenly fallen so silent; Adam had walked onto the stage behind her, and it was his guitar she could now hear accompanying her.

Maggi hadn’t seen him in such a long time, and as she looked at him now she could see the changes in him. His dark hair was longer than it had been, with flecks of grey amongst its thickness. His eyes were still as dark a grey, but there were lines beneath them; and grooved into his cheeks beside his mouth, a mouth set grimly, as was the arrogant angle of his jaw.

He was dressed almost exactly the same as Maggi, in black denims and a black silk shirt, the latter unbuttoned from his throat to reveal the growth of dark hair on his chest. This was the way he had always dressed when they’d sung together in the past.

He looked at Maggi challengingly as her singing faltered at the sight of him beside her, and she knew exactly why he was frowning at her so darkly; ‘the show must go on’ had always been Adam’s attitude. No matter what the circumstances. As Maggi knew to her cost...

Adam continued to play the melody on his guitar, still looking at her expectantly, his dark gaze compelling her to begin singing again, to give the audience what they had come here for.

But he was wrong. The audience weren’t waiting for the song to resume. Their stunned silence at Adam’s unexpected appearance was replaced by whispered conversations now as they all wanted to confirm that it really was Adam Carmichael standing up on the stage beside Maggi Fennell.

Maggi was having trouble believing it herself! She had known he was here in the hall—the second rose had told her that only too clearly—but she had never guessed he would actually have the nerve to join her on the stage.

How dared he? As Mark had said, ‘Don’t get sad, get mad.’ And she was mad—in fact she was furious. How dared Adam do this to her?

‘Sing, damn it!’ he muttered between gritted teeth, while keeping up a completely impersonal expression for the people who were looking at the two of them so curiously now.

Sing! She wasn’t sure a sound would pass her lips, let alone any that would actually be in tune. They hadn’t stood together on a stage like this for so long, she—

‘I said sing!’ he grated again, playing the introduction to the song once again.

Maggi could see Mark at the side of the stage, holding her second guitar in his hand, knew he was riveted to the spot as he saw who was standing beside her. But he had to know, too, that there was nothing he could do about Adam’s presence either, not without causing a scene. And that was the last thing any of them wanted in front of so many people.

But she needed her guitar if she was to continue— if only as something for her to hold onto! She quickly crossed the stage to take the instrument from Mark’s unresisting fingers.

‘What the hell—?’ Mark muttered furiously as he looked across at the other man.

Maggi shook her head wordlessly. For the moment there was nothing either of them could do about this situation; she just had to get on with the performance. What happened after that was anybody’s guess!

Her smile was one of complete professionalism as she turned back to face the audience, her gaze having passed sightlessly over Adam; if she didn’t look at him, maybe she would be able to get through this. Maybe...

She began to sing, accompanying herself on the guitar, aware that her own guitar work was not as good as Adam’s more intricate style. But then, it never had been; their styles had always complemented each other, had never been the same.

Adam had chosen to play—deliberately, so it seemed to Maggi—one of the songs they’d used to sing together, and as they approached the chorus she waited tensely for Adam to join in the harmony. His voice had always been rich and deep, a perfect contrast for her higher, throaty voice.

Even Maggi felt the goose-bumps down her spine as the two of them harmonised perfectly. God, it was as if they had never stopped singing together, as if they had been practising this song for weeks in the build-up to the music festival. And instead they hadn’t even seen each other for three years, hadn’t sung together for a long time before that...

The audience went wild with appreciation as the last notes trailed off the guitars, instantly recognising the perfection of Maggi and Adam’s performance. But it had always been like this between them on stage, a complete rapport, an understanding that went so much deeper than the music.

But Maggi still couldn’t bring herself to look at Adam, her heart sinking as the audience shouted for more. Not that she blamed any of these people for their enthusiasm; they were witnessing an event that had never been expected to happen again—Adam Carmichael and Maggi Fennell singing together once more.

“‘Home Town”,’ Adam prompted softly at her side, mentioning a song the two of them had recorded together several years ago, a song that had once been very successful for them.

She looked at him sharply, making no effort to comply with the command. ‘I don’t need you any more, Adam,’ she returned as softly. Both were aware of the live microphones in front of them.

His expression hardened; his grey eyes narrowed. ‘You never did. But at the moment we have an audience to please,’ he muttered harshly. “‘Home Town”,’ he repeated, with a firmness that brooked no argument, instantly launching into the fast introduction to the song.

All of this was beyond Maggi’s worst nightmares, and how she managed to get through the next thirty minutes she had no idea. But the audience were wild with joy, refusing to let them stop, demanding song after song, most of which Maggi had thought she would never, ever sing again.

She did all of it without looking at Adam—found she couldn’t look at him; it brought back too many memories. Memories she would rather forget...

‘We’ve gone over our time,’ she finally told him flatly as she pulled the guitar strap over her head, a signal to the audience, too, that she had finished. She flicked back the shining length of her hair.

Adam kept his guitar strap over his shoulder. ‘They want more,’ he pointed out dryly. Most of the audience were on their feet now, sensing they were going to lose the highlight of the evening, probably of the whole festival, and unwilling to relinquish such a treat.

Maggi’s blue eyes flashed as she looked across at him. ‘There are other people waiting to perform,’ she reminded him stiffly. The next performer had been standing in the wings for the last ten minutes, and was talking animatedly to Mark now—a Mark who didn’t look too responsive to whatever was being said to him as his gaze remained fixed fiercely on Maggi and Adam.

Adam glanced across at the two men in the wings too, ignoring Mark’s scowling face and grinning his satisfaction when the other man gestured his willingness for Maggi and Adam to continue. ‘He doesn’t seem to mind,’ Adam told Maggi with satisfaction.

‘But—’

“‘Passing Years”, Magdalena,’ Adam insisted challengingly.

Only Adam had ever called her by the name chosen by her Spanish mother; most people, her English father and even her mother, preferred to call her by the shortened version of Maggi. His use of her full name was enough to evoke even stronger memories of Adam and herself.

As was his suggestion that they sing ‘their song’...

She could feel her face pale even at the thought. She had sung it last night because it had been expected of her. But then she had sung it alone. She never wanted to perform that particular song with Adam again. It was too—She just couldn’t sing it with him!

‘You can, Magdalena,’ Adam bit out harshly, and Maggi realised she must have unwittingly spoken her protest out loud. ‘You can do anything you damn well want to!’ he added grimly.

She looked at him sharply, at the accusation in his cold grey eyes. ‘I don’t want to do this,’ she told him furiously.

‘Stop acting like a spoilt child, Magdalena.’ The coldness of his tone was like a slap in the face. ‘You chose to come back, to put yourself in the public eye again, and now you have to give them what they want!’

It was obvious, from the shouted encouragement of the audience, that what they wanted was for Adam and Maggi to continue—all night if possible. It was also obvious that Adam was quite happy to do that.

It had always been like this with Adam; everyone else’s feelings had always meant more to him than hers. He hadn’t changed, would never change.

‘All right, Adam, we’ll do this one last song,’ she finally conceded flatly, swinging her guitar strap back over her head onto her slender shoulder. ‘And then I’m leaving the stage. After that I don’t ever want to see you again.’ Her voice was strong and unyielding, but the words sounded childish in their intensity. But it was the truth; once she left this stage this evening she didn’t want Adam anywhere near her.

‘The first you may be able to do,’ he murmured softly, before turning back to the waiting audience. ‘The second you may not have any choice about,’ he added grimly.

Maggi looked at him sharply; exactly what did he mean by that last remark?

.

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