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Surrendering To The Italian's Command

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«Surrendering To The Italian's Command» - Ким Лоренс

Seduction in the palazzo!Ever since a horrific accident for which he blames himself, Danilo Raphael has kept himself closed-off and emotion-free. But when he sees English rose Tess Jones being attacked, he cannot quell his protective instincts, and offers her sanctuary…in his imposing Tuscan palazzo.Tess Jones may be a virgin, but she knows what she wants in a man, and this autocratic Italian, no matter how darkly sexy, isn’t it! But as hot, summer days melt into sultry nights, Tess finds herself surrendering to Danilo. Their passion changes Tess irrevocably, but she must leave unless Danilo surrenders the past that holds him back…
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Seduction in the palazzo!

Ever since a horrific accident for which he blames himself, Danilo Raphael has remained closed off and emotion-free. But when he sees English rose Tess Jones being attacked, he cannot quell his protective instincts and offers her his imposing Tuscan palazzo.

Tess Jones may be a virgin, but she knows what she wants in a man, and this autocratic Italian, no matter how darkly sexy, isn’t it! But as hot summer days melt into sultry nights, Tess finds herself surrendering to Danilo. Their passion changes Tess irrevocably, but she must leave unless Danilo relinquishes the past that holds him back...

‘Ever since you arrived here—’

Danilo stopped abruptly, as if he could not force the words past the thickening atmosphere that quivered with tension. It made her think of that stillness before a storm. She was always overpoweringly conscious of his physical presence, his raw masculinity, but now that awareness had jumped.

Tess’s pulse leapt as she struggled to drag her eyes from the muscle that was clenching and unclenching in his cheek.

His voice was so deep it was barely more than a whisper. His expression made every cell in her body want to run away. But for some reason by the time the message reached her brain it said something different. Her eyes never left his face as she took a step towards him. His hands closed over her upper arms and impatiently he dragged her into him until their bodies were close enough for her to feel the heat of his body, feel the tension in his muscles, inhale the scent of his skin.

It was an unimaginable situation and yet she had imagined it. The knowledge came with a rush of head-spinning excitement. Somewhere in the back of her mind there lingered a small corner, a fragment of sanity that was telling her this was a bad idea, but she determinedly ignored it.

‘Say my name.’

She swallowed the emotions swirling inside her, making her throat close.

‘I want to hear you say it.’

KIM LAWRENCE lives on a farm in Anglesey with her university lecturer husband, assorted pets who arrived as strays and never left, and sometimes one or both of her boomerang sons. When she’s not writing she loves to be outdoors, gardening or walking on one of the beaches for which the island is famous—along with being the place where Prince William and Catherine made their first home!

Books by Kim Lawrence

Mills & Boon Modern Romance

One Night with Morelli

Captivated by Her Innocence

The Petrelli Heir

Santiago’s Command

Stranded, Seduced...Pregnant

Unworldly Secretary, Untamed Greek

Under the Spaniard’s Lock and Key

The Sheikh’s Impatient Virgin


One Night to Wedding Vows

One Night With Consequences

Her Nine Month Confession

A Secret Until Now

Seven Sexy Sins

The Sins of Sebastian Rey-Defoe

Royal & Ruthless

The Heartbreaker Prince

At His Service

Maid for Montero

Protecting His Legacy

Gianni’s Pride

Visit the Author Profile page at for more titles.

Surrendering to the Italian’s Command

Kim Lawrence

For Aunty Pat, a gutsy lady.


Back Cover Text


About the Author

Title Page





html#litres_trial_promo" id="back_litres_trial_promo"> CHAPTER FOUR












TESS LEANED HER hot forehead against the fridge and struggled to inject a smile into her hoarse voice. ‘I’m fine,’ she lied. ‘I feel a hundred times better.’

‘You’re a terrible liar,’ Fiona retorted.

Tess straightened up and lifted a hand to her throbbing head, responding to the affection in her friend’s voice with a weak smile. ‘No, I’m a very good liar.’

Only yesterday she had sounded sincere when she’d told her mum’s PA that she was really sorry she couldn’t attend the community centre official opening where her mum was cutting the ribbon. Flu had its plus points—though in this case she wasn’t lying, she really was feeling better; even so a hundred times better than utterly wretched was still pretty awful.

‘I would have dropped in on my way home but I had to work late. You’re not the only one with this flu—half the office is off sick. It’s a nightmare. But I’ll definitely stop by in the morning after I drop off Sally and the girls at the station. Is there anything you need?’

‘You really don’t need—’

‘I’ll be there.’

Tess applied a tissue to her red nose. She was too tired to argue.

‘Well, don’t blame me if you catch this thing,’ she grumbled.

‘I never get the flu.’

‘I think they call that tempting fate,’ Tess muttered as she rested from the two steps she had taken, leaning heavily against the worktop counter. It was crazy but her knees were still shaking from the effort of walking from the bedroom to the kitchen.

Fiona cut across her. ‘In the meantime make sure you get plenty of fluids—’ Tess heard the sliver of sharp anxiety that slid into her friend’s tone as she added, ‘You did change all the locks?’

‘I did everything the police suggested.’

Which amounted to becoming a prisoner in her own flat. She glanced over at the extra bolts that had been fitted to her front door when she’d had her locks changed.

‘They should have arrested the disgusting sicko.’

‘They raised the possibility of a restraining order—’

The admission drew a gasp from Fiona. ‘Then why...?’ Followed by an understanding groan. ‘Oh, of course, your mum...?’

Tess said nothing; she didn’t need to. Fiona was one of the only people who understood. She’d been there when, at ten, Tess had become the poster girl for her mum’s crusade against school bullying. And Fiona had been there again when her mum had used a tearful image of her at her dad’s funeral as part of her campaign to win a local council election.

‘She means well,’ Tess said, unable to resist the knee-jerk reaction to defend her parent. It was true that Beth Tracey—she had reverted to her maiden name after she was widowed—did have the best of intentions, and though she had a genius for self-promotion it was never herself she promoted, but her good causes.

‘The rumour is that she’s going to put herself forward as an independent candidate for mayor?’

‘I heard that rumour too.

’ Lucky for her, Tess reflected grimly, that her ambitious parent had finally accepted the fact her only daughter was not a political asset, though that didn’t stop her trying.

‘Even if I had gone down that route there is no guarantee the court would have granted it. He comes across as very...well...harmless. And I had no proof he’d even been in the flat. After all, he didn’t actually t...take anything.’ Tess hated the quiver in her voice—she’d sworn not to be a victim.

‘What he did was way worse, Tess. That creep invaded your home.’

Tess was glad her friend couldn’t see her as her knees sagged and she slid down to the floor. The incident had been the turning point, the moment Tess had realised that ignoring the man, even feeling sorry for him, was not an option. He was dangerous!

Even a month after the event the memory still had the power to send a wave of nausea through her, powerful, but nothing like the sick disgust, the profound sense of violation she had experienced that evening. The rose petals on the bed and the champagne and glasses displayed on the bedside table had been terrifying enough, but it had been the open underwear drawer that had made her rush to the bathroom to throw up.

It was as if her stalker had wanted her to know, and yet he had taken great care not to leave any evidence of his identity.

‘I know.’ Tess cleared her throat and struggled to steady her voice. ‘I suppose from their point of view people leaving flowers and champagne isn’t a major crime.’

‘Stalking is these days. Did you tell them about the emails?’

‘There was nothing threatening. The police were sympathetic.’ Tess had been prepared not to be believed but the professionals had found it easier than she had to accept that the deep and meaningful relationship Ben Morgan believed he shared with Tess consisted only of the odd good morning they had exchanged at the bus stop.

‘Well, sympathy is going to be really useful when he stabs you in your sleep one dark night!’

Alerted by Tess’s audible gasp, Fiona stopped and hastily backtracked. ‘Not that he would, of course. The man’s a wimp, a total loser! Me and my big mouth. Are you all right, Tess?’

Teeth clenched, Tess stubbornly fought her way back from the place where Fiona’s angry remark had sent her, ignoring the icy fist in her stomach. Her chin lifted. To feel fear meant the crazy had won.

‘Nothing two aspirin and a cup of tea won’t cure,’ she said, struggling wearily to her feet.

‘Turn that thing down, you lot, or I’ll switch off the cartoons... Sorry about that,’ Fiona continued, raising her voice above the din that Tess could now hear in the background. ‘My dear sister is taking a bath and the twins are running rings around me. Under-fives and a white carpet are not a good combination...who knew?’

‘You go and save your carpet, Fi.’

‘Are you sure you’re all right? You sound awful.’

Tess managed a hoarse chuckle. ‘I look even worse.’ She pushed a strand of lank hair from her face and turned her back on her distorted reflection in the polished surface of the kettle. A glance in the mirror, when she’d dragged herself out of bed earlier, had already revealed her red nose, dark circled eyes and ghostly pallor. ‘But I’m fine.’

A snort of exasperation echoed down the line.

‘All right,’ she admitted. ‘I feel terrible but I’m going to make myself a cuppa and go back to bed.’

‘Good plan. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

Putting on the kettle, Tess opened the fridge and pulled out an open carton of milk. Her congested nose meant it wasn’t until it landed in a congealed gloopy mess in the bottom of her mug that she realised it had soured.

Deprived of it, suddenly all Tess could think about was a cup of tea. The corner shop was less than two hundred yards from her front door...if she took the shortcut through the alley.

Tess, still in her pyjamas, left the flat huddled in the duffel coat that Fiona’s boyfriend had left behind the last time he and Fi had come to supper. He was a slight man but the coat still swamped Tess’s petite frame.

Slow and steady, she counselled her shaking knees. Like I have a choice! She had made it halfway down the alley when she heard the helpful policewoman’s soothing voice in her head.

‘Look, don’t get paranoid. You’ve done right to remove your online presence—a pain, I know, but the anonymity makes people like this guy feel brave. As for the rest, just take a few common-sense precautions—if you’re out stay with friends, and if you’re alone keep to public places where there are plenty of people and the lighting is good. Very often guys like this fasten onto someone else.’

Tess’s heart gave an extra-hard thud as she stopped dead, suddenly very conscious of the oppressive darkness that seemed to press in on her.

She had put herself in exactly the sort of situation the police had suggested she avoid.

Teetering feverishly on the brink of panic, she took a couple of deep breaths that made her cough, not calm. The hacking sound echoed off the high walls on either side as she resisted the messages from her feverish brain that made her want to turn around and run. That was a bad idea on two counts: she wasn’t capable of running and she was actually closer now to the other side—the main street, where there were lights and people and safety.

‘You’ll be fine...fine, totally fine, you are not a victim...not a victim...’ Her mantra stalled as the figure appeared at the other end of the alley. He barely paused before he began to walk towards her.

Tess opened her mouth to scream and nothing came out. She was living a nightmare, the horribly familiar recurrent one where she was paralyzed. She couldn’t breathe. As if something malevolent were sitting on her chest—someone malevolent.

‘Relax, I’m here to look after you, darling—’

It was not a scream but it was a noise. Desperately she tried again to raise the alarm...

* * *

‘Without knowing the details of your sister’s case I can’t be sure, but from what you tell me I doubt very much if she would be a suitable candidate for the treatment.’

Don’t kill the messenger!

Danilo let his eyelids lower to hide his expression before letting the tense breath escape his lungs in a carefully managed exhalation.

‘But if you would like me to see her...?’

Danilo’s lashes lifted.

The man sitting opposite saw the question in the dark depths. ‘Obviously you’ll want to discuss it with her?’


‘Your sister. I understand that she had already had several unsuccessful treatments?’

From somewhere the memory of the angry words of the kid he had warned off his sister the previous month came back to him. ‘You don’t want to see me here again, but what about what Nat wants? She wants to see me, and I want to see her. I love her. When are you going to let her live her own life?’

‘She wants to walk.’

The man’s understanding expression aggravated Danilo, who got to his feet and tipped his head in acknowledgement. ‘I will be in touch.’

Her own life.

A life. That was what he wanted for his sister. It was to that end he had taken her to every top spinal expert, he had made himself familiar with every new piece of research. He would not give up, but he would ask her and she would agree with him.

She always did.

Frowning at his annoying inner voice, he waved away the driver who had got out of the limo to open the door.

‘I’ll walk.’

As he strode, hands dug in his pockets, along the pavement shining from the recent shower, he was lost in his own thoughts so he barely registered the sting of unseasonal hail that began to fall again, quickly covering his hair in icy, white fragments that clung to the dark strands. It was a typical British summer.

There were moments in life where a man was forced to face up to his failings, his weaknesses. He’d been in London the night that he’d faced his, the night of the accident that had robbed his parents of their lives and left his teenage sister in a wheelchair.

He should have been there, he should have been at the wheel of the car, and if he had things might have been different. He’d never know because he’d had a better offer, a night with a beautiful blonde in London. The excuse had come so easily.

Self-disgust churned in Danilo’s belly as he relived the moment when the police had finally tracked him down to the hotel room. By that point the city sky had been streaked with morning light and his little sister had been in a hospital bed in Rome fighting for her life for over seven hours. And she had been alone because their parents had been lying on a mortuary slab.

He’d put a night of casual sex ahead of duty to his family.

If he’d not been such a selfish bastard...well, who knew? Things might have turned out differently. Would his more youthful reflexes have made all the difference? He’d never know; that was his punishment. Compared to Nat, though, he’d got off pretty lightly and she’d done nothing to be punished for, but one thing he did know was that while he had breath in his body he would not stop searching for a cure for his sister.

It was the right thing to do, the only thing to do, he had no doubts. And yet...? His frowning contemplation of the wet pavement deepened as he trudged along it with the surgeon’s words—discuss it with her—floating around in his head. He kept picturing Nat’s face the last time her hopes had been raised by the promise of a miracle cure and then dashed. She’d looked so bleak.

He shook his head, refusing to acknowledge the doubts in his head. His little sister was the strongest person he knew and he had to stay strong for her, stay positive, and one day she would walk.

He was so deep in his own thoughts that he’d walked past the alley before he registered the sound: a woman’s cry, filled with fear. His response was hard wired—there was no question of walking on and pretending he’d not heard. A few seconds later he was at the entrance to the cobbled alleyway; the overhead street light illuminated the scene and seconds told him all he needed to know.

The guy had hold of the woman and she was trying to escape.

Danilo struggled to hold back the red mist that threatened. Bullies were a species that always challenged the objectivity he prided himself on. He could spot one at fifty paces, and like muscle memory the sight of a bully in action always awoke the fifteen-year-old in him, the one who had yet to enjoy a spectacular growth spurt that had seen him grow twelve inches in as many months and the musculature that went with it putting him safely beyond the attention of those creeps in life who looked for victims who were seen as weaker or different.

* * *

The man didn’t see him coming so he put up no resistance when Danilo took hold of his collar and physically dragged him away from the young woman. One glimpse of her pale face, too pale to be pretty—the cheekbones too sharp, the eyes too big, the mouth...actually the mouth was pretty good—cranked up his chivalrous levels several more notches.

She reminded him of Nat, not that there was any physical similarity. Nat was beautiful, not plain, and his sister was tall, not tiny. Still, he’d not been there for Nat when she’d needed him, but he was here now.

‘What the hell...?’

The guy let out a frustrated bellow, flailing wildly, his arms windmilling as he was set down on his feet yards away from the cowering figure of the woman. Apart from her, he didn’t look so big—and obviously he didn’t feel it either, when he turned and saw Danilo standing between him and his victim.

The aggression in the man’s face diminished significantly but the wariness in his eyes was mingled with calculation as he held out his hands and smiled.

‘This is a misunderstanding...’ He spoke while moving in a direction that would give him access to the woman now hidden from his view behind Danilo.

Danilo negated his ploy by shadowing the move before allowing his glance to linger on the scratch that was seeping blood on the guy’s cheek. Good for her, he thought approvingly.

‘I don’t think so. Do you want me to call the police?’ he asked the woman without taking his eyes off the other man.

‘I just want to go home.’

The hoarse little whisper had a heartfelt sincerity that didn’t help Danilo’s struggle to resist the impulse to shake the guy until his teeth rattled. Then she sniffed and he almost lost it. Instead he moved to her side.

‘Or a hospital?’

‘She’s fine. Police...?’ The falseness in the laugh grated on Danilo. ‘You’ve got it all wrong, mate. This was just a misunderstanding. You know how it is. Something and nothing—sweetheart.’

In a heartbeat Tess tipped from relief to outright panic. What if this man believed him? What if he left her alone with bonkers Ben?

‘I am not your mate.’

It wasn’t until her rescuer spoke in a voice that held a twenty-below chill that Tess realised she had grabbed his arm in a death grip. His words made her feel better, but just to be sure she didn’t let go; instead she tightened her grip and moved in closer.

‘And to answer your question, no, I do not know how it is to force myself on a woman.’

‘She’s mine...’

Ben’s voice made Tess’s skin crawl. She shook her head in mute rejection. The denial locked in her throat, all she could do was squeeze her eyes closed to avoid the stare of Ben’s cold, creepy eyes, but not before it had loosened the lid on the box in her head marked Don’t deal—lose, bury, forget!

The deeply buried memory that escaped was so clear that for one disorientating moment Tess was sixteen again, cornered by the man her mum was dating. Watching helplessly as he locked the door, his smile and his soft, oily voice making her skin crawl and her insides chill as he told her they could have some fun. Tess knew she was lucky she never found out what his idea of fun entailed because it turned out that sleazy creeps did not find it fun to have their victim throw up all over their expensive new shoes!

‘You know, it’s been a long day,’ the man beside her drawled.

She clung to the sound of his voice, focusing on the faint attractive accent, letting it drag her free of the memories that even now made her feel unclean, but most of all angry because she had felt weak and helpless. ‘And I am not interested in a debate. However, we could move this discussion to the nearest police station?’

There was a silence followed by footsteps. Tess focused on the clean male scent of the man beside her and let it wash away the memory of the sour scent—a combination of sweat and cheap fragrance—that had emanated from her stalker.

The sound of footsteps had faded before her rescuer spoke again. ‘He’s gone. You can open your eyes.’

Italian... Tess speculated as she tilted her head to look up at the tall stranger. He’d have looked beautiful to her if he’d had a bad case of acne, but he didn’t. He was actually incredibly good-looking.

‘I could kiss you!’ Relief made her more painfully honest than normal, and saying what she was thinking always had been one of her faults. ‘But don’t worry, I won’t. I have the flu.’ She let go of his arm and patted the fabric and let out a long fluttering sigh. ‘I’m awfully glad he didn’t hit you.’

His crack of laughter made her smile too, and as their eyes brushed she realised that he wasn’t just good-looking, he was amazing!

He had the olive skin tone that went with jet-black hair, an angular face, dramatic chiselled cheekbones, high forehead, his face bisected by a straight nose, yet the austerity of his strong features was offset by an incredibly sensuous mouth.

His smile was pretty incredible too. It made her feel dizzy. But then he wasn’t smiling, he was frowning and she was still feeling dizzy; his dark features were swimming in and out of focus in a weird way.

‘It’s none of my business...’

So why are you making it your business? asked the exasperated voice in Danilo’s head.

Appreciating the meaning of the phrase weak with relief for the first time, Tess turned her head too quickly and felt the world spin.

‘But don’t you think maybe you should be a little more careful in your choice of boyfriends?’ he observed, tempering both his advice and his disapproval. He might feel he was speaking on behalf of a brother she might have somewhere, but he wasn’t and thank goodness for that. One little sister was enough... Two...? He hadn’t been able to keep the one he had safe.

At least this woman didn’t laugh at him the way Nat had or doubt his qualifications when it came to relationship advice. What Natalia didn’t understand was that actually he was perfectly qualified, because for a long time he’d been the man that brothers warned their sisters not to date.

This woman just looked at him blankly, eyes wide, as though he were speaking a foreign language. He allowed himself the luxury of cursing softly in his native tongue, relieved when he saw comprehension spread across her face.

‘No, he is...never...not...’

Through the rushing sound in her ears Tess could hear her own voice, then there was just the rushing.

Guilt and alarm grabbed at Danilo and he swore again, low and fluently under this breath, as he placed a steadying hand across her shoulders. She sagged like a rag doll and he wrapped his other arm around her middle. It was then he realised several things: she was shaking and, despite her petite appearance underneath the massive coat, she had curves. Only one fact was relevant.

‘You’re not going to faint.’

He said it in a way that at any other time would have made her laugh. Macho men who thought just saying something made it so always made her laugh. They generally didn’t know why she was laughing—alpha males so often had no sense of humour.

She didn’t laugh now though. Instead she leaned against the hand that was now pressed between her shoulder blades and hoped like hell he was right.

‘I’ll be fine.’ The world was swimming back into focus and, yes, he was still as impossibly good-looking.

It didn’t seem a very realistic statement, considering the unhealthy sheen of perspiration on her pale skin, but he approved of positive thinking, especially when the option was having an unconscious female on his hands.

‘Breathe deeply, in and, not too deeply.’ He steadied her violent sway and left his arm around her waist while he pulled out his phone. He wondered if his plan to fly directly back to Rome was still realistic. ‘That’s better...’

She’d thought his eyes were brown, and they were incredibly dark, but now as he captured and held her gaze she realised they were midnight blue, like the night sky, and flecked with tiny points of silver that glittered like stars. From nowhere the phrase soul stripping came into her head, though actually clinical was more accurate.

She moistened her dry, cracked lips with her tongue and nodded. ‘I’m fine now.’

She looked a million miles from fine. ‘My car is coming. Where do you live?’

Tess, her heart still pounding though now with relief and not terror, heard herself recite her address like some obedient lost child. ‘I don’t need a lift. It’s just around the corner.’ What else was around the corner? Bonkers Ben? She shuddered. The mocking nickname no longer worked in making him seem harmless and absurd. He’d been waiting for her...watching? Was he still watching?

The realisation he could extract himself from this little drama sooner rather than later sent a surge of relief through Danilo and for a split second he was sorely tempted to accept the rejection at face value.

Then she looked over her shoulder, the movement fear-filled and furtive—hell!

‘It’s on my way.’

‘It is?’ She suspected it was a lie but wasn’t about to call him on it. The thought of meeting up with her stalker sent a shudder through her.

Concern roughened the edges of his voice as he said softly, ‘You’re safe now.’

His voice pulled her back from the brink of panic; the unexpected gentleness in it made her want to cry.

‘Please don’t be nice,’ she begged. ‘I’ll cry. I know I’m being...’ Pathetic. ‘I’m not normally so—’ Tess brought her teeth down on her wobbling lower lip and blinked back weak tears. ‘He... Ben... He isn’t my boyfriend. He just thinks he is.’

Danilo dismissed her explanation with a shrug of his broad shoulders. ‘Not my business.’ And he had no desire to make it his business, he reminded himself, turning his head as his sister’s features superimposed themselves over the pale, pinched face of this young woman, producing a familiar knife thrust of guilt that he didn’t try to evade.

‘I have a sister not that much younger than you.’ The woman was a little older than he had first assumed. ‘And I hope if she ever needed—’ His sister had needed and he hadn’t been there.

The woman took a deep breath and Danilo’s habitual objectivity slipped as he watched her attempt to regain control. The effort to straighten her slender shoulders sent a jerky convulsive ripple through her entire body; the air left her lungs in a long gusty sigh, but not the tension.

Heavy lids shadowing his stare, Danilo was torn between reluctant admiration and irritation, his irritation reserved for the protective instincts he felt shift and tighten in his chest as a solitary tear escaped the swimming eyes lifted to his. Things got tighter as he watched it slide slowly down her cheek. He had never seen eyes quite that shade of golden amber before.

Her eyes, almond-shaped and framed by thick, spiky black lashes, lifted her face from plain. They were extraordinary. Still, she was not his responsibility.

‘Well, thank you. I’d be grateful if it’s not out of your way, but I’ll be fine now—really.’

The delivery started firm and slowly faded, ending on a definite wobble. She looked at him with eyes that made him think of the runt of the litter of golden retrievers his father’s favourite dog had produced.

Danilo, promised first choice of the puppies, had, against all advice, chosen the sickly-looking one who everyone had warned would not survive. But that little animal had gnawed its way into his heart with those eyes.

The dog had survived and was still rewarding his decision with unconditional love, though her coat was less glossy than it had been before she’d got old and stiff.

‘But if perhaps you could walk with me, if you’re heading that way?’ Tess was shaking again, her body seized by inner tremors she had no control over. She didn’t shrug off the hand that came to rest gently against her shoulder blades. She was glad of the contact while recognising she was acting like the sort of woman she despised: weak, malleable and in need of male support. And this particular male had an attitude that normally would have got under her skin.

Cut yourself a break, Tess, you’ve got the flu and you’ve had a run-in with your unhinged stalker.


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