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His Scandalous Mistress: The Master's Mistress / Count Toussaint's Pregnant Mistress / Castellano's Mistress of Revenge

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CHAPTER TWO

‘TEA… ?’ Rogan prompted mockingly as Elizabeth Brown—Dr Elizabeth Brown—moved dazedly across the kitchen to sit down on one of the breakfast stools, even while she continued to stare at him with a frown on her face.

She probably had to sit down before she fell down, Rogan acknowledged ruefully. No doubt it had been unnerving earlier, for this woman to suddenly hear someone banging and crashing about the kitchen and believing it to be a burglar. Only to now discover it was Brad Sullivan’s long-lost son come to visit. A very short visit, if Rogan had his way.

‘Tea would be… lovely,’ she accepted. ‘Um… Did you also receive the second letter I sent you?’

‘Nope,’ Rogan said shortly.

‘Oh.’

Rogan’s mouth twisted as he took pity on her dismayed expression. ‘I know my father died, Elizabeth.’

How could Elizabeth have missed the fact that this man talked with an American accent? Probably because she had been too captivated by those deep and melodious tones to notice!

If she hadn’t been so mesmerised then she might have added two and two together and realised this man was probably related to Brad Sullivan. That he was, in fact, Brad Sullivan’s son…

‘Don’t look for any physical resemblance between Brad and me,’ Rogan Sullivan rasped harshly, the bitterness of his tone unmistakable. ‘Or any other resemblance, for that matter. There isn’t one, thank God!’

‘I was just thinking what a pity it was that you had to learn of your father’s death from a hospital official,’ she said defensively.

He grimaced. ‘I haven’t been to the hospital. I did call, but they refused to give out any information on Brad’s condition over the telephone. Luckily his lawyer was more forthcoming,’ he added. ‘About Brad’s death and the instructions he gave him to arrange the funeral.’

Elizabeth gave a pained wince at this reminder that the funeral was arranged for three days’ time. ‘I’m really sorry your father died before you were able to get here.’

‘Are you?’

‘Of course.’ She frowned at his sceptical tone.

‘From what I can gather from his lawyer, Brad knew exactly how ill he was, and had been living on borrowed time for some years,’ Rogan Sullivan revealed.

Borrowed time that Brad Sullivan had obviously chosen not to inform his only son about…

An only son who, Elizabeth now realised, was looking at her with far too much familiarity. That warm chocolate gaze moved slowly over her pyjama-clad body, pausing on the firm thrust of her breasts against the thin cotton material.

Elizabeth moved uncomfortably as she felt that gaze like a lick of heat across her skin. ‘Would you excuse me for a few moments? If we’re going to continue this conversation I would like to go upstairs and collect a robe,’ she added pointedly, as Rogan Sullivan raised questioning brows.

‘Oh, we’re going to continue it,’ he confirmed. ‘And isn’t it a little late for modesty?’

Elizabeth’s cheeks coloured warmly as she stood up, thinking of being carried in this man’s strong arms wearing nothing more than a pair of thin cotton pyjamas… ‘Nevertheless, I believe I would feel more comfortable in my robe,’ she said firmly.

‘Fine,’ Rogan accepted uninterestedly and he turned away, pretty sure that the good doctor was going upstairs in order to regroup as much as anything else.

She certainly looked more comfortable when she returned a few minutes later, wearing a serviceable blue and white striped robe tied neatly at the waist over those cotton pyjamas. Obviously Dr E. Brown was an altogether no-nonsense sort of woman. Not his father’s type, he would have thought…

Rogan placed two fresh mugs of tea down forcefully onto the breakfast bar, before sitting on the stool opposite Elizabeth Brown’s to regard her with narrowed, assessing eyes.

She straightened, obviously extremely uncomfortable. ‘I thought that you might have telephoned once you had received my letter… ’

He gave a humourless smile. ‘Your very businesslike letter, informing me that “Mr Sullivan has suffered a heart attack”?’ Rogan already regretted the impulse that had made him jump on a plane and fly to England, even though he had already known his father was dead, without having the prim Dr Elizabeth Brown pointing out the futility of his actions!

Had her letter had been businesslike? Elizabeth worried. Perhaps, she acknowledged with an inner grimace. But she hadn’t known Brad Sullivan very well, and knew his son not at all, and, considering the obvious lack of warmth in their relationship, she had found it a very difficult letter to write. She could maybe have signed it with something a little less formal than ‘Dr E. Brown’, though…

Elizabeth had suggested that it might be better if Mrs Baines wrote the letter to Rogan Sullivan, but, faced with the housekeeper’s almost hysterical distress after Brad’s initial collapse, Elizabeth hadn’t liked to press the point.

‘I’m sorry if you found my letter a little—formal.’ She picked up the mug of tea and took a reviving sip, some of the colour returning to her cheeks. ‘Although it may have been more convenient if you had telephoned Mrs Baines to let her know of your imminent arrival. There have been several burglaries in the area recently, and if we had been expecting you I wouldn’t have attacked you!’ she added, slightly accusingly.

Elizabeth Brown was now embarrassed by her earlier behaviour, Rogan guessed easily. Not that she had any reason to be. His decision to come to England, after talking to his father’s lawyer, had been a purely gut reaction. A need to see for himself that his father really was dead.

Consequently, Rogan hadn’t thought to let anyone know of his arrival.

Mrs Baines would have recognised him instantly, of course, despite the fact that he hadn’t so much as been back to Sullivan House once for the last fifteen years, but there was no reason why Elizabeth Brown should have done so.

All the same, that embarrassed colour in the good doctor’s cheeks was rather attractive, making her eyes appear a deeper, more sparkling blue. Embarrassment, no doubt, at having made such a monumental error as to accuse the son of the house of being a burglar!

Well, she needn’t worry on that score. Rogan hadn’t considered himself as the son of the house for years. The ten years he had spent in the American army had given him a new family. One he could depend on a damn sight more than the one he had been born into!

He gave a dismissive shrug. ‘Forget it. It isn’t important.’

Maybe not to him, Elizabeth accepted. But if she had known of Rogan’s imminent arrival it might have saved her from embarrassing herself in that ridiculous way. And there was no way she could forget she had attacked him with a book, of all things. The brass ornament dropping on his foot had probably left a bruise too, despite the heavy black boots he was wearing.

Elizabeth looked across at him with new, assessing eyes. Rogan had been right when he’d claimed he bore no resemblance to his father, in looks or nature.

Brad Sullivan’s hair had been blond and thinning, his eyes a steely blue, and although he might once have been as tall and muscular as his son, the older man had been painfully thin and slightly stooped before his death. Not even the facial bone structure was the same: Brad’s face had been more rounded, where Rogan Sullivan’s was all harshly sculptured angles.

All harshly sculptured extremely handsome angles…

Rogan Sullivan really did resemble those darkly dangerous and sexy heroes who so often appeared in the vampire and demon books Elizabeth read for relaxation after spending her days and evenings totally immersed in teaching history to university students. No excuse, she admitted, but she enjoyed reading those types of books because of their complete escapism. She certainly hadn’t appreciated having this man taunt her about them!

This man who had so far shown remarkably little emotion over his father’s recent death…

Mrs Baines had briefly explained the situation between father and son to her; Brad and Rogan Sullivan had argued after the death of Rogan’s mother, Brad’s wife, Maggie, fifteen years ago, when Rogan had been aged only eighteen. Rogan had apparently left home shortly after that, and the next time his father had heard from him it had been to learn he had returned to his native America and joined the army.

Not that Elizabeth had needed to be told that the relation-ship was a strained one after learning that Brad’s only way of contacting his only child was through a post office box in New York!

‘Don’t presume to make judgements based on things you can’t possibly understand,’ Rogan advised as he saw the emotions flickering across Elizabeth Brown’s expressive face: curiosity, quickly followed by a faintly disapproving curl of that sensually fuller top lip.

She arched auburn brows. ‘I wasn’t aware I was doing so.’

‘No?’

‘No.’ She frowned her irritation with the challenge.

Rogan gave a humourless smile. ‘You were sitting there thinking that I don’t seem very upset for someone whose father has just died!’

That was exactly what Elizabeth had been thinking!

But perhaps she was misjudging Rogan? After all, she had no idea why father and son had argued only months after the death of Rogan’s mother, followed by long years of estrangement. For all she knew Brad could have been a terrible husband and father.

Much like her own…

Except it was all too easy, now that the politely charming Brad was dead, to blame the mocking and seemingly uncaring Rogan Sullivan for the strained relationship that had existed between father and son.

‘So, what are you doing here?’Those dark eyes were hard as onyx as Rogan Sullivan looked across at her in an uncomfortably assessing manner.

Elizabeth frowned. ‘I believe I already told you. I’m here to catalogue your father’s library.’

‘You said that, yeah… ’ he drawled. ‘I meant what are you still doing here now that he’s dead?’

‘I didn’t know what else to do,’ Elizabeth admitted ruefully.‘Your father engaged my services for six weeks, and… ’ She shook her head. ‘I didn’t know what else to do,’ she repeated lamely.

Those chiselled lips curled disdainfully. ‘Do a lot of cataloguing, do you?’

‘During the summer holidays, yes. Exactly what are you implying, Mr Sullivan?’ Elizabeth demanded indignantly, as she saw speculation in those mocking eyes.

He shrugged. ‘That maybe physical over-exertion could be the reason my father had a heart attack a week ago?’

Elizabeth gasped. ‘Are you implying that I had a—a personal relationship with your father?’

‘You tell me,’ Rogan taunted; this woman really was very beautiful when she lost her temper!

Her eyes glittered deeply blue, and there was heated colour in her cheeks. The fullness of her lips was set determinedly, her pointed chin was raised challengingly, and the spiky style of that red hair gave the overall impression of an indignant hedgehog!

‘The library was here when we moved to England twenty years ago and my father bought this house; I don’t recall him even considering having it catalogued before,’ Rogan goaded deliberately.

A nerve pulsed in her stubbornly set jaw. ‘And how would you know what your father may or may not have considered doing when the only contact you’ve had with him, for the last five years at least, has been through a PO Box?’

Rogan narrowed his eyes menacingly. ‘I warned you not to speculate about things you don’t understand, Liza.’

That angry colour drained as quickly from her cheeks as it had appeared. ‘I prefer to be called Elizabeth or Dr Brown!’ she bit out stiltedly.

Rogan eyed her consideringly.

Obviously he had hit on a raw nerve of some kind by the shortening of her name. ‘Okay, so don’t speculate about things you don’t understand… Elizabeth,’ he conceded dryly.

What Elizabeth didn’t understand was why she was responding to this man’s taunts and insinuations at all!

As Dr Brown, highly qualified lecturer in history at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, she was held in deep respect by students and faculty colleagues alike. As Elizabeth Brown, a woman of considerable financial independence, she made a point of avoiding any and all situations that might lead to emotional confrontation of any kind. Especially with a man whose very presence unnerved her!

‘Unlike you, I’m not so hot on formality,’ Rogan said. ‘My friends call me Rogue,’ he explained, and Elizabeth gave a confused frown.

Rogue?

How fitting a name was that for this dangerously disturbing man!

‘How lucky for me, then, that I don’t happen to be one of your friends,’ Elizabeth answered coolly. ‘I would prefer to use Mr Sullivan, or Rogan if you insist on informality.’

‘Oh, I do, Elizabeth, I most certainly do,’ he murmured huskily.

She avoided meeting that warm and mocking dark gaze. ‘Perhaps we should resume this conversation in the morning, Rogan? We don’t seem to be achieving very much tonight.’

‘Except being rude to each other,’ Rogan pointed out.

‘Exactly.’She nodded briskly. ‘You are obviously tired after your journey—’She broke off as Rogan gave a chuckle, a disconcerted frown on her brow as she looked across at him questioningly. And she felt the lurch in her chest, the swelling of her breasts and tightening of her nipples, at the way the amusement in his face made him appear even more dangerous…

Appear dangerous? This man was dangerous! And he induced an awareness in Elizabeth, a physical arousal, that was totally alien to her.

‘Nice cop-out, Elizabeth,’ Rogan jeered, stretching wearily. ‘But I’m afraid I’m always this outspoken—what’s your excuse?’

It took all of Elizabeth’s will-power to drag her gaze away from the flexing of those muscles in the broadness of Rogan Sullivan’s shoulders. Even so, her nipples actually ached now, and there was an unaccustomed warmth between her thighs…

Her mouth firmed and she straightened suddenly. ‘It’s late, I was terrified out of my wits a short time ago, and I’m tired… ’

‘Terrified out of your wits?’ he echoed incredulously, that dark gaze once again compelling. ‘I’d hate to see what your response would be if you weren’t so terrified!’ He touched his temple pointedly, a slight redness of the skin showing where Elizabeth had struck him with her book.

A book whose predatory hero was no doubt going to seem very one-dimensional after she had come face to face with the very real—and very disturbing—flesh-and-blood man!

Elizabeth watched his long fingers as they ran lightly across his bruised flesh before pushing back the long length of his dark hair in a movement that seemed habitual. That hair looked as soft as silk. A silkiness Elizabeth longed to touch and thread her own fingers into before pulling his head down and—

She gathered herself up. ‘No doubt you know which bedroom to use?’ she bit out sharply.

‘No doubt,’ Rogan Sullivan drawled, those black eyes openly laughing at her.

Elizabeth had almost reached the kitchen door, almost made her dignified exit, and was congratulating herself on how well she had regrouped after physically attacking Rogan Sullivan in his own family home, when he made his own last mocking comment.

‘Don’t forget to get your book from the drawing room… ’

She faltered slightly, her eyes closing briefly in embarrassment at this second taunting reminder of the book she had been reading earlier.

‘The cover alone would be enough to shock Mrs Baines senseless, let alone its contents!’ Rogan Sullivan added.

Elizabeth drew in a deep, controlling breath before she turned to glare across the room at him. ‘I should put something on that cut on your hand, if I were you. It would be such a pity if it were to become infected. It might even result in lockjaw!’ she added with saccharin sweetness.

‘I can imagine how much that might bother you.’ He gave an appreciative chuckle.

‘You have no idea!’ Elizabeth gave him one last scathing glance before sweeping out of the kitchen. Well, sweeping as much as she could when she was wearing a pair of blue cotton pyjamas and a striped bathrobe!

She paused long enough in the drawing room to take advantage of Rogan Sullivan’s jeering advice concerning taking her book back upstairs with her.

All the time she was aware that any dreams or erotic fantasies she might have tonight would all be about a dark-haired, dark-eyed, dangerous man dressed completely in black.

A man known to his friends as Rogue…

‘Mrs Baines seemed to be of the opinion that we would be eating breakfast together, and I didn’t like to disappoint her,’ Rogan said the following morning, as Elizabeth came to an abrupt halt in the doorway of the breakfast room the moment she saw he was already seated at the small table.

A slightly more officious-looking Elizabeth Brown than the night before; she wore a silky cream blouse tucked into black tailored trousers, with flat court shoes. That red hair was as perky and spiky as the previous evening, but she had added mascara to those already dark, sooty lashes, and a deep peach gloss to the fullness of her lips.

Officious, but still beautiful, Rogan decided approvingly as he stood up to hold a chair for her to sit down after she had reluctantly entered the room. ‘Just so that you know I do remember some of the manners my mother taught me all those years ago,’ he bent to murmur derisively beside her left ear.

‘I’m pleased to hear it!’ Elizabeth ignored his close proximity and picked up her napkin. She placed it purposefully across her trouser-clad knees before continuing to ignore him as she looked over the contents of the table.

All the time she was completely aware of how devastatingly male Rogan looked, with that long dark hair still damp from the shower. He was wearing a black T-shirt that clearly defined his muscled chest and arms, with black combat trousers sitting low down on the leanness of his waist and emphasising the powerful length of his legs…

‘Would you like me to pour you some coffee?’ Rogan offered as he raised the cafetière invitingly, and in the process once again stood just a little too close to Elizabeth for comfort.

The feral grin he gave as Elizabeth shot him a slightly nervous glance told her that he was totally aware of the effect his close proximity was having on her equilibrium. That he’d already noted the flush in her cheeks, the way she couldn’t seem to breathe properly, and the slight trembling of her hands.

How could she not be affected? Elizabeth accepted ruefully. Men like Rogan Sullivan—hard, tough, dangerous—were completely beyond her everyday acquaintance. The only males she usually met on a day-to-day basis were either other academics or students much younger than herself.

She occasionally accepted an innocuous luncheon or dinner invitation from one of her male colleagues, but other than that Elizabeth preferred to keep her life uncomplicated by personal relationships. She had certainly never met anyone even remotely like Rogan before!

But she certainly wasn’t so disconcerted by all this blatantly displayed testosterone that she was willing to forego her morning cup of coffee because of it! ‘Thank you,’ she accepted, with a dismissive glance in his direction.

Mistake!

As she had known she would, Elizabeth had dreamt about this man last night. Once she had finally managed to fall asleep at all, that was. Intense, disturbing dreams that had included fulfilling the fantasy she’d had last night of running her fingers through that over-long dark hair, before moving lower to caress the width of those muscled shoulders and down the hardness of his back. In her dream she had also caressed other places she would really rather not think about right now!

But the reality of the man was so much more disturbing than any dream. He simply oozed hard masculinity from every pore in his muscled body, from that hewn and ruggedly handsome face to the strength of his perfectly toned body. He even smelt male, his aftershave sharp and tangy, with a hint of spice that tantalised the senses almost as much as the man did himself.

He knew it too, and was perfectly comfortable with all that blatant masculinity, Elizabeth acknowledged slightly resentfully. ‘Are you expecting to suddenly have to go into combat here in the wilds of Cornwall?’ she taunted, with a scathing glance at the dark clothing and heavy black boots he seemed to favour wearing.

He shrugged. ‘I just threw a few things into a holdall after receiving your letter. Besides, I find it’s always best to be prepared.’ Rogan eyed her mockingly as he resumed his seat opposite her at the intimately small table. ‘After all, one never knows when and where one might be attacked!’

Warm colour entered those slightly hollow cheeks at the deliberateness of Rogan’s taunt. ‘Mrs Baines mentioned you left the army five years ago?’ She obviously chose to take his taunt at face value.

‘Yes,’ he confirmed evenly.

‘What career do you have now?’

‘I keep busy with this and that.’

‘What sort of this and that?’

Rogan narrowed his gaze darkly. ‘You’re very nosy for someone who supposedly only came here to catalogue my father’s library for him.’

‘There’s no “supposedly” about it,’ she assured primly. ‘I was merely attempting to make conversation.’

‘Make it about something else,’ he bit out curtly.

Rogan didn’t discuss the work he did. With anyone. Least of all a woman he had only met eight hours ago.

Although it was starting to seem much longer than that…

‘If I’m nosy, then you’re completely lacking in manners!’ She frowned at his rudeness.

Rogan gave an uninterested shrug. ‘What else did you expect from a man whose father’s only means of contacting him was through a PO Box!’

A nerve pulsed in her cheek. ‘I wasn’t meaning to be rude when I made that comment.’

‘Weren’t you?’ Rogan asked knowingly.

Okay, yes, she had been, Elizabeth accepted guiltily. Which was a little unfair of her when she really knew nothing about their family situation. When this man’s father had just died…

‘What about you, Elizabeth?’ Rogan Sullivan arched a dark brow in query. ‘What does Dr E. Brown do when she isn’t cataloguing someone’s library?’

‘She teaches. History. At a London university,’ she expanded as he seemed to be expecting more.

‘Wow.’

‘It’s a subject I happen to love.’ She bristled defensively at the obvious lack of enthusiasm in his voice.

‘You’re comfortable with things that have already happened rather than those that haven’t?’

Elizabeth had never thought of it in that particular way before… ‘Is there something wrong with that?’ she asked.

A shrug stretched the black material of his T-shirt tighter across the wide width of his shoulders. ‘Not at all. Except a life with no surprises must be… ’

‘Comfortable?’ Elizabeth supplied tersely.

‘Boring,’Rogan Sullivan finished with an unrepentant grin, his teeth very white and even against that lightly bronzed skin.

‘That happens to be the way I prefer it.’ She stood up abruptly. ‘With your permission, I think I’ll take my coffee with me into the library and get started on some work.’

Dark brows rose teasingly. ‘With my permission?’ he echoed.

It had occurred to Elizabeth shortly before she’d fallen asleep the night before that with Brad Sullivan’s death, if she stayed on here as originally planned, she would now effectively be working for Rogan…

She nodded tersely. ‘Unless you would prefer me to stop working on cataloguing the books?’

‘I—’ Rogan’s attention turned to the doorway as he saw Mrs Baines standing there hesitantly.

‘I wondered if I could get either of you something hot for breakfast?’ the elderly housekeeper offered huskily, the strain of the last few days evident in the paleness of her cheeks and the slight redness of her eyes.

‘Elizabeth?’ Rogan prompted crisply.

‘Not for me, thanks.’ She gave the older woman a regretful smile.

‘Or me,’ Rogan said. ‘We’ll both be finished in here in a few minutes, if you want to clear away then,’ he assured Mrs Baines lightly, having only vague memories of the sixty-year-old widow who had moved to Sullivan House with a sixteen-year-old son twenty years ago.

He leant back in his chair to look at Elizabeth with enigmatic dark eyes once they were alone again, arms now folded across that wide, muscled chest. ‘So, have you found any priceless treasures in the library yet?’ he wanted to know.

‘One or two, yes.’ She nodded. ‘A first edition of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species alone is worth a considerable amount of money.’

His brows rose. ‘How much money?’

‘Probably several hundred thousand pounds. And there are several others: a couple of Dickenses and a Chaucer. They’re also very collectible.’

‘I’m really not that interested, Elizabeth,’ Rogan rasped.

Her cheeks became flushed. ‘Then why bother to ask?’ He gave a shrug. ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time.’

‘And is your interest usually this fleeting?’

A slow smile curved those sculptured lips even as the dark eyes once again openly laughed at her. ‘It depends what that interest happens to be… ’

There was no mistaking the deliberate innuendo in Rogan’s tone. Nor Elizabeth’s longing to wipe that smile from his ruggedly handsome face!

What was it about Rogan Sullivan that brought out these uncharacteristic feelings of violence in her? That caused her to be constantly antagonised by him?

The answer to that was easy! Everything about him made her feel defensive, while at the same time making her feel vulnerable and very feminine in a way that was totally unfamiliar to her. As well as uncomfortable…

Elizabeth Brown was defensive, nosy and confrontational, Rogan recognised as he continued to look at her admiringly from between narrowed lids. An interesting combination for a university lecturer in History who read steamy vampire novels when she was alone in bed at night and didn’t like surprises in her personal life.

Whereas Rogan was an adrenaline junkie who lived for the challenges in his own life, personal and otherwise!

Elizabeth’s mouth firmed. ‘Obviously your… interest doesn’t lie in rare books.’

‘Obviously not,’ Rogan agreed, inwardly starting to regret deliberately baiting her.

She had arrived two weeks ago to catalogue Brad’s library—Rogan had checked that out with Mrs Baines earlier—and, pleasurable as it might be, he shouldn’t be taking out his present frustration with the situation he found himself in on her.

Because his father’s sudden death had completely removed any possibility of the two men ever coming to any sort of understanding…

The two Sullivan men had never had the easiest of relationships. When the family had lived in the States Brad had owned and run one of the most prestigious advertising companies in New York, and his hours of work had been long and frantic. The family home had been in the suburbs, often meaning that Brad had spent weekday nights at the apartment he’d kept in the city. Not much had changed after the family had moved to England twenty years ago, so his father could open an office there. Brad had stayed in London during the week, only returning to Sullivan House for the weekends.

Consequently Brad hadn’t been around much, and had never attended any of the school events to which parents were invited—meaning Rogan’s mother, the Irish/American Maggie, had been the one to attend rugby matches, sports days, and the school plays in which Rogan had appeared.

Maggie had always been the bridge between Rogan and Brad, and when she had died so unexpectedly the two men had found they had absolutely nothing in common. Added to which, Brad had been furious when Rogan had refused to take up his place at Oxford University and instead returned to America and joined the army there.

Rogan straightened abruptly. ‘Continue to catalogue the library, by all means,’ he said brusquely. ‘Whoever inherits will no doubt consider selling them if some of the books are as valuable as you say they are.’

Elizabeth’s eyes widened. ‘You aren’t expecting that to be you?’

Rogan Sullivan’s laugh lacked all humour. ‘I have an appointment with Desmond Taylor, Brad’s lawyer, later this morning, so no doubt all will be revealed then. But I’d think it doubtful, wouldn’t you?’

Elizabeth no longer knew what to think. About this situation. Or, indeed, about Rogan Sullivan…

.

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