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Beneath the Surface (MF)

The Matchmaker 1

Siren-BookStrand, Inc.

Heat Rating: SCORCHING
Word Count: 107,000
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[Siren Classic: Erotic Interracial Contemporary Romance]

Former Madison Avenue ad exec EJ Vega just landed a seven-figure advance from Renegade Publishing. Older sister Evelyn convinces him he needs a fashion makeover before he goes on his first national book tour and has just the person in mind to turn his wardrobe inside out. EJ, too late, recognizes the handiwork of his oldest, matchmaking sister Angela, and by the time he realizes what he's gotten himself into, a very hot and uptight personal shopper has invaded more than just his wardrobe; she's invaded his soul.

From a broken home and driven by past demons, Tabitha Lyons is the proprietor of flourishing Lyons Style, Inc. and knows success when she sees it. In EJ she sees not just success, but sexy and sin with a capital "S." She doesn't want to turn his wardrobe inside out as much as she knows EJ will turn her world upside down...

A Siren Erotic Romance

Professional Reviews

5 KLOVERS: "Until this month, I had not read any of Gracie C. McKeever's work, but I quickly devoured both of her books I received for review this month. After reading the other book first, I immediately turned to The Matchmaker, Book 1: Beneath the Surface. As much as I loved the other story, I adored Beneath the Surface!
     I have to say, I wasn't sure quite what to expect after reading the blurb for this one, but it just knocked my socks off. The paranormal element is ever present, and a key part of the plot, but it never feels like a paranormal story. It feels very realistic, with the familiarity of a story that is strictly contemporary, lending the psychic talents wielded by EJ and his sister more credibility.
     EJ Vega is the perfect love interest for the withdrawn Tabitha. Simultaneously steady and patient while also powerful and dynamic, he is just what the doctor ordered to draw her out of her self-imposed social exile and into a passionate romance.
     The large Vega clan promises several entertaining sequels in this series, and I know there is already one released, which I will be working to get in my hot little hands just as soon as possible!" -- Jennifer, CK2S Kwips and Kritiques

5 MAGIC WANDS: "Ms McKeever has created a tight family group around psychic telepath Angela, whose words of wisdom and guidance help all around her. There's a strong sense of realism and locale in this book that really drew me in, and the attraction between EJ and Tabitha just grabs you. Even their banter is sexy, so you know that when they finally go to bed it's not just sex, it's something else, something amazing. The supporting cast is just as great, from bitchy Jade to lovable Frankie, the fast-talking sisters and the rest of Eric's family. With plenty of romantic twists and entanglements, this will keep you reading to the very last page. You're sure to love it-and there's more to come in this fantastic series. Keep a look out for the next book!" -- Autiotalo, Enchanted Ramblings

4.5 STARS: "Beneath the Surface is Book 1 in The Matchmaker series. The story is a phenomenal start to the matchmaking talents of Angela Calminetti, EJ's sister. Angela wants all her siblings and family happy and in love. She uses her telepathic abilities to make sure that this happens.
     EJ and Tabitha, they have to struggle to make it to happiness, the two are stubborn and try to best each other. But they are miserable without one another. EJ knows Tabitha is the one because she reminds him of his first love Sinclair. Sinclair committed suicide when EJ was much younger and he has never really trusted his heart to another woman. Tabitha is different, for the first time in years EJ wants to tell her the truth about his telepathic abilities. Tabitha has had a rough life and is not very trusting of anyone but Eric James seems like he is worthy of her trust. Gracie C. McKeever shows that the bond between EJ and Tabitha will be long-lived and everlasting. And that the two are each others pretty match. Beneath the Surface is an outstanding book that is captivating. I definitely recommend this for readers." -- Chantay, Euro Reviews

4.5 BLUE RIBBONS: "Beneath the Surface is the first book in The Matchmaker series and a wonderful beginning. Tabitha is a great heroine with plenty of backbone to stand up to whom and whatever. This makes reading about her a pure joy. EJ is not your typical author and it doesn't take much to transform him into incredibly sexy and totally hot. This couple has a fiery relationship both in and out of the bedroom and readers won't be able to get through the pages fast enough. The love scenes are full of desire and fraught with sensuality. Gracie McKeever has penned a book that will have readers desperately seeking the next volumes in the series." -- Angel, Romance Junkies

4.5 ROSES: "Gracie C. McKeever has compiled one wonderfully enjoyable read full of rich, full characters. This story will make you laugh, shed a few tears and make you wish the next tale was available. The witty banter and complex characters make Beneath The Surface an engrossing read. Gracie C. McKeever has a new fan in this reviewer and I eagerly await her next tale." -- Noemi, A Romance Review

4.5 HEARTS: "Beneath the Surface is the first stand-alone entry in Ms. McKeever's Matchmaker Series featuring psychic matchmaker Angela Calminetti. Angela and EJ are understandably close as they share a psychic as well as a familial bond, so naturally Angie turns her talents toward her brother first. Prickly Tabitha is a wonderful character whose appeal grows as each layer is pulled back and another facet of her character is revealed. This is really a feel-good love story with slight paranormal elements and with graphic language and spicy sex scenes. This reviewer became immediately engrossed with this tale and slurped it right up in one marathon session. Once again, Ms. McKeever has shown a deft touch with her prose and characterizations and produced a wonderful tale. This reviewer looks forward to the future installments in this series and will enjoy visiting the zany Vega family again and again!" -- Leah, LoveRomancesandMore.com

4 HOT TATTOOS: "Ms. McKeever captures intense love scenes loaded with earthshaking passion and desire. Eric and Tabitha burn up the pages of this book every time they give into the uncontrollable longing inside of them. At times, I felt like a voyeur watching the steamy embraces. Their passion is only the backdrop for an intense connection that bonds these two souls into one. The feelings and link they share [are] very special and unique. It is what we are all searching for out of life.
     I will read Beneath the Surface: The Matchmaker many more times through the years to remember the beautiful love story of Eric and Tabitha. I look forward to the next installment of the series." -- Ophelia, Erotic-Escapades

4 FLOWERS/Excellent: "Ms. McKeever has succeeded in taking an often-used story line and breathed new life into it. Both Tabitha and Eric are full of such life and anguish that you laugh and suffer right along with them. This author has the talent to draw you into her story and you can really feel the sexual chemistry between the hero and the heroine. The author also sets things up so there will be more books in the series, something I will look forward to. I highly recommend this book." -- Char, May Reviews

4 STARS/Orgasmic: "EJ and Tabitha are a wonderful couple, and throughout the book, I enjoyed the interaction between them, especially how their past makes them closer. Stubborn isn't strong enough to describe these two, but their resistance to taking a chance at love never gets to the irritating stage. Their chemistry is excellent and the desire they feel never fades as the super hot sex gets better with each encounter. Definitely have a significant other available when this book is done. The interaction with the sisters was good and brought a break from the intensity of EJ and Tabitha's developing relationship...The paranormal link is very well-done, and was not only a selling part of the book but completely plausible. Beneath the Surface is a entertaining book and I look forward to reading the rest of the Vega siblings' stories when they come out." -- Anya Khan, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

4 HEARTS: "I really enjoyed this story. Gracie has a very nice voice and a terrific sense of pacing and story momentum. I loved the prickliness and baggage of both the main characters and the way the struggled against each other and against their own baggage. Eric's sense of responsibility and purpose made him instantly likeable. Tabitha's complex character and the way she strives for logic and reason in emotions and things inherently irrational made her a heroine to eagerly follow and root for.
     One of the most interesting things about this book was that, unlike many paranormals, it was more contemporary than paranormal. The characters live in the real world and their issues and growth is easy to comprehend and sympathize with. The paranormal aspect of this story was masterful. It didn't beat me over the head and it didn't hide in the background until the very last moment.
     This is the first book I've read by Gracie McKeever but it won't be the last." -- Maura, The Romance Studio

4 ANGELS: "Beneath the Surface - The Matchmaker has a wonderful flow and was a joy to read from start to finish. The loves that the Vega family had for each other could easily be felt throughout the story. I absolutely enjoyed following E.J. and Tabitha as they navigated the rocky road of their relationship. They are both strong and independent and it was fun watching them struggle as they tried to build a relationship without giving up control. This book is full of suspense, surprises, laughs and really heated sex scenes. I got such a feeling of comfort and joy when the story ended." -- Lisa, Fallen Angel Reviews

4 CATS: "Beneath The Surface written by Gracie C. McKeever has something for everyone; a strong willed, love-shy career woman, a gorgeous, successful hunk with a large, meddling Italian family, characters with psychic abilities and last but not least, lots of hot, steamy, explicit sex.
     When E.J. Vega and Tabitha Lyons are fixed up by his sister, the matchmaker, sparks fly. This entertaining read takes you through the ups and downs of a modern day relationship between two people who are carting around a lot of baggage. Will they be able to overcome past traumas and live happily ever after with each other or will they call it quits? It's a roller coaster ride to the end.
     For a great escape, pick up Beneath The Surface. It's a well written, entertaining book, but be forewarned, the sex scenes are sizzling." -- Sue Gold, Wild Child Publishing

"What do you get when you take a man and a woman with very different personalities, add an impossible to resist sexual attraction, and some meddling family members? You get Gracie C. McKeever's Beneath the Surface, one heck of an enjoyable read. Not only does it turn up the heat, it will make you laugh and cry and look forward to the next tale in Ms. McKeever's The Matchmaker series.
     EJ is the type of man that it would be easy to underestimate. Only as you get to know him, do you see beneath his laid back exterior. When EJ decides to woo a lady, he does it relentlessly and with style. Tabitha's cold, business-like exterior protects a heart and soul that have been sorely battered. When she confronts her past, it will bring tears to your eyes. With interesting secondary characters to move the plot along and add some spice of their own, Beneath the Surface flies by at a quick pace.
     Witty banter and complex characters make Beneath the Surface a delightful, engrossing read. Gracie C. McKeever has certainly caught my interest and I will be eagerly awaiting her next tale. Don't miss out on this wonderful new series." -- Vicki Turner, Romance Reviews Today

More From The Matchmaker


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Excerpt




STORY EXCERPT

“Send him in.” Tabitha sat behind her desk and hit Escape on her keyboard.

Eric strolled in just as his dossier reappeared on her screen, and Tabitha swallowed at the sight of him, suddenly wishing she had stuck with her usual formality when they’d been on the phone and kept their relationship on a strictly last name basis. She didn’t want him to get the wrong idea, especially since her own treacherous hormones already had the wrong idea and had her pussy muscles clenching in response to his tall height and broad shoulders filling the doorway as he paused on the threshold.

Instant attraction. Not only was it not good, it was unprecedented.

Tabitha stood up behind her desk and proffered a hand across the glass top as he approached, thinking Evelyn had somehow bamboozled her and that her brother’s profile did not do him a bit of justice. There was nothing about the man that needed to be “made over.”

He was inhumanly gorgeous, the black hair he had mentioned in his profile was sleek and wavy, worn in a longish but masculine and neat style combed back off his forehead and glistening beneath the fluorescent lights of her office.

Tabitha slowly moved her gaze down, taking in the aquiline nose, angular jaw, and cleft chin—the cleft he had neglected to mention in his profile as he had mentioned his dimples—immediately drawn back up to his indigo eyes, ridiculously long-lashed, so dark and intense they almost looked black.

She almost smiled when he grinned and she noticed the big dimples to which he had previously alluded, mentally taking his measurements and surprised he had been so accurate with his description. Most men—most people—boasted, overcompensated for some shortcoming or were too humble with their self-assessment. Rarely had she met anyone who’d been so accurate. Accurate and modest. God, the man can’t be this perfect!

Tabitha slid her gaze down further to take in his outfit and amended her last thought. Today was not Friday, but he was definitely dressed down.

Okay, he wasn’t perfect. Thank God for small favors.

His sense of fashion seemed to come straight from a discount store. Actually, a discount store would have been a step up. She could easily see the man perusing the aisles of a neighborhood thrift shop. Not that there was anything wrong with that. She frequented some of the better thrift shops herself when she was on the hunt for that perfect item for a client and not that his clothes were ill fitting, quite the contrary.

He had the kind of body on which clothes hung well, any clothes, pulled off the casual ragged, torn-up look with sensual style rather than coming off as a slob.

Tabitha glanced at her clock as he caught her smaller hand in his big one and gently squeezed. The resultant energy tingled all the way up her arm until she thought he had one of those practical joke buzzers in his palm, but there was nothing touching her palm except his smooth, warm skin.

He noticed the direction of her glance and grinned, showcasing those dimples to their fullest effect. “Come on now, you have to admit I’m on time.”

Tabitha arched a brow. “Just,” she said coolly.

“Let me guess, you’re the type who turns up to all her appointments at least a half-an-hour early, am I right?”

“Why don’t you have a seat and we can get started,” she said, ignoring his quip. That he was so on target about her was totally beside the point.

He released her hand slowly, his body heat and intensity overwhelming and invading her comfort zone so much, it made her think twice about walking across the room to close the door before she finally did just that.

When she got back behind her desk and sat down, Eric was still standing and running a hand over the glass top admiringly, glanced up at her with a knowing look.

“I knew you’d be a glass and chrome type.”

Tabitha glanced at him with a start, entranced by his long fingertips stroking her desk, imagined him caressing her skin instead of the smooth cold glass, her body wantonly arched beneath his manipulations. “Excuse me?”

“I got a definite vibe from your voice on the phone the other day.” He glanced around her uncluttered office and nodded. “Cool, Spartan, functional.”

His matter of fact appraisal made her feel as if her character had just been attacked, that maybe she should defend herself, but he spoke up again before she had a chance.

“Don’t get me wrong. I like the look. It suits you.”

“Not quite an apology.”

He arched a lush brow. “Do I owe you one?”

“No, I suppose you don’t. You were just making an observation after all.” She leaned her elbows on the desk, folded her hands and leaned her chin on her clenched fingers as she looked at him. Two could play the intuitive game. “What type are you?”

“Eclectic, whatever feels good at the moment.”

“Mmm-hmm.” Just like she thought. A free spirit. He probably would have been right at home at Woodstock.

“Is this part of the interview process?”

“Everything you say to me here is basically part of the interview process. I get to know what you like, your general style, it helps me when I finally have to go and pick things out for you. That is, if you’re not with me at the time I make the purchases.”

“You mean I have that option?”

“If you have the time, of course you do. Most of my clients don’t use the option. Time constraints are one of the main reasons people hire me in the first place. Your time is valuable, so why not let me do what I do best while you’re using your time to do what you do best?”

“I like that philosophy.”

Most men did. Most of her clients of the male, no-time-or-desire-for-frivolous-nonsense persuasion where shopping was concerned, did. Must have been something in the Y chromosome, some anti-shopping gene.

Tabitha looked at her monitor and hit the Enter key twice to make room for additional information. “Now, you mentioned eclectic…” Tabitha paused to glimpse his outfit. Not quite as out there as some of the Woodstock fashions she had seen, but definitely unconventional for the business world in which she moved. The white T-shirt tucked into a pair of blue wash-and-wear Levi’s hinted at firm well-muscled abs that tapered down to a slim waist, would have been more suitable attire for a Grease revival. Same went for the black distressed leather blazer that clung to his broad shoulders and had Tabitha’s fingers itching to divest him and see if his physique was as hard as it looked.

He had the anarchistic artist look down to a science, and she wasn’t sure yet whether or not it was a façade, or a well-honed image he’d perfected just for their meeting today, because Eric seemed like the type to go out of his way to shock.

Eric finally took the seat across from Tabitha’s desk, resting his right ankle on his left knee and giving her a good view of a comfortable, well-worn black desert boot.

“So, let’s get back to your sty—”

“I don’t like suits and ties. I did the whole corporate dress for success deal years ago, and I’m not interested in reimmersing myself. What you see here is as dressy as I usually get.”

True, the customer was always right, but Tabitha took offense at his tone, as if he was too good for a suit and she wasn’t; as if he were attacking her tastes without even knowing what she might have planned for him.

“There are a lot of things we can do with slacks and a suit jacket that don’t involve a tie.”

“There are a lot of things I could do with a tie that don’t involve clothes at all.”

If she’d had liquid in her mouth, she might have spewed it across the desk in his face. As it was she had to tamp down a strong urge to laugh, and instead frowned to show her displeasure.

Her look didn’t go a long way to putting him in his place, however.

He simply grinned at her, a smug boy who had just put his second grade teacher on the spot with his risqué comment in front of the class.

“Other than the suit and tie aversion—”

“I’m fairly easy.”

She just bet. “That helps a bit.” Although she didn’t consider the subject closed by any stretch of the imagination.

He’d insulted her and Tabitha did not take well to insults. Rather than dwell on it though, she typed in “easy and casual” on his profile, then peered at him. “Would it be safe to say blue or black are your favorite colors?”

“Today they are. Tomorrow it might be something that’s at my fingertips when I reach into my closet.”

Tabitha shifted in her chair, crossed her legs to stem the sudden flow of wetness in her panties. She’d never found wise-asses a turn-on, but there was something intrinsically sexy and inviting about his grin, something raw and challenging in the depths of those indigo eyes.

She highlighted and underlined “easy and casual,” already envisioning him in a charcoal single breasted suit and vest to highlight those beautiful dark eyes, and a black T-shirt underneath. There, no tie! “Any colors or materials you don’t like?”

He shrugged, but rather than give off uncertainty, the motion emitted his indifference.

Tabitha stopped herself from flinging her mouse over the pad, and stared at him across the desk as he merely arched a thick brow. “This is not the best way to build rapport, Eric. I need cooperation from you to make this work. This relationship has to be a two-way street, give and ta—”

“Okay, okay.” He chuckled, put up his hands as if in surrender. “You’re absolutely right. I have to apologize for dragging you into this.”

That was more than she expected, but less than she deserved, and Tabitha waited for the other shoe to drop. She was sure he had something up his sleeve, especially when she realized what he had said. “Dragging me into what?”

“Vega vendettas and power struggles.”

“I’m not following.”

“I have to be honest, my sister damn near twisted my arm to sell me on the idea of a makeover and personal shopper.”

“You don’t have to feel obliga—”

“But, now that I’m here I’m getting used to the idea of having a fashion consultant.”

“Let’s get something straight, I can’t work miracles.”

“I don’t expect you to.”

“And I won’t do anything to your wardrobe you don’t want me to do.”

“I leave myself and my wardrobe at your total discretion, Tabitha.”

She stopped herself from sputtering at his silky warm murmur, the sound of her name on his lips, still waiting for that big size twelve desert boot to drop.

At the thought, he did lower his right foot to the polished parquet floor, rolled his chair closer before leaning his elbows on her desk.

Tabitha purposely held her ground, though she was tempted to roll her chair back an inch or two, his clean musky scent riding the wind to her nostrils and making her light-headed.

It should have been illegal for a man to smell as good as he looked.

“Well, ah, that’s good to hear.”

“And I promise to cooperate and be a good boy for the rest of our meeting.”

She didn’t think he could or would keep that particular promise, not even if he tried, not a “good” bone in that big well-built body.

“Scout’s honor.” He raised his hand and grinned at her silence.

“Were you?”

“Was I what?”

“A Boy Scout.”

“Even better. I was an Eagle.”

She wasn’t that up on what the qualifications for an Eagle Scout were, but she was sure they were pretty extensive and doubted that Eric’s footloose and fancy-free mien had held him in good stead with the fraternity.

“I could show you my merit badges,” he said at her doubtful look.

“I bet you could.” What did they give merit badges out for? She was certain he’d excelled in totally different areas of achievement and socialization than had the rest of his troop. And despite his aversion to suits and ties, she could imagine him in the little green shorts uniform, politely helping an old lady across the street and shamelessly flirting with her all the way.

Tabitha bet he had nice legs too, to go with the rest of that hard body she’d been secretly ogling since he’d arrived.

“What about you?”

“Me?” She raised a brow.

“I can see you in a little Brownie’s uniform selling cookies door to door.”

The double entendre didn’t escape her—she knew he’d meant it not to—his smile slow and seductive as he sat back in his seat waiting for her response.

“I was entirely too busy with more important activities to indulge in that particular whimsy.” Too busy surviving, she thought.

Tabitha had never had to sell cookies door to door, but she’d had to barter, borrow and steal for a meal more times than she liked to count.

She especially remembered a period when her mother had neglected to come home for several days after Tabitha’s father had left them. Everyday for a week she had come home to an empty house, and an even emptier refrigerator before going out to the neighbors to play “Whimpy from Popeye” with promises that her mother would gladly pay them Tuesday for a meal today.

No, hawking hundreds of boxes of overpriced cookies for top-selling honors and a cheesy overrated prize had not been high on her list of eight-year-old priorities.

“So, back to least favorite colors and materials?”

“I’m not too fond of orange and pink, unless they’re on a woman. As for materials, I like anything that’s washable.”

She wanted to ask him if that jacket he was wearing was washable since it looked like it had been through the ringer. Distressed leather had been a trend back in the 90’s, which looked to be about when he had bought the jacket. Of course, leather and blazers were pretty timeless…

“Before you ask, yes, it is.”

“I’m sorry? Yes, what is?”

“The jacket’s washable.”

Her jaw dropped but she quickly coughed into a fist to cover her shock. “What are you, a mind reader?” she asked and watched as he fidgeted in his seat, for the first time since he’d come into her office looking uneasy, as if she had hit a nerve.


ADULT EXCERPT



He closed the space between them, reached for her, cupping a breast.

She gasped, not realizing he’d undone the top several buttons of her blouse and unlatched her bra until she glanced down and saw his hand against her naked copper tone flesh. “You’re fast,” she blurted.

“You have no idea.” He pressed her against the wall, lightly pinching and rolling an already hardened nipple between his thumb and forefinger.

Tabitha moaned and Eric covered her mouth in a scorching kiss that sent her stomach spiraling in a pool of molten liquid draining straight out of her vagina.

“Is everything all right in there, sir?”

Eric dragged his mouth away from hers long enough to say, “Everything’s fine!” He stared down at her, licking his lips like a hungry predator. “More than fine,” he murmured, making slow sensual circles with a forefinger around her right nipple.

Tabitha moved away and slapped at his hand. “You’re absolutely incorrigible.”

“Guilty as charged.”

She stopped herself from smiling. She didn’t want to encourage him, not that he needed much encouragement to be the total scoundrel that he was.

God, when he looked at her like that—indigo eyes smoky and heavy-lidded, plainly proclaiming exactly what he wanted to do to her—Tabitha wanted to give in, give him anything he wanted, do anything to please him.

She had to get away from him before she fell any deeper under his spell.

Tabitha moved to the opposite side of the cramped room—not nearly far enough—warily watching him, didn’t realize she was panting until she saw her breasts heaving from the corner of her eyes. She reached up to latch her bra and button her blouse with shaky hands under Eric’s glittering watchful gaze, couldn’t drag her eyes away from his. “You messed up my clothes.”

“I was actually trying to get them off.”

“You don’t stop, and you’ll mess up those clothes.” She pointed her chin at his outfit.

“If I’m going to buy them anyway, will it make a difference?”

“Yes, it will. They’ll know what we were doing in here.”

He took a couple of steps towards her and before she knew it, he had her pinned against the wall again. “They already do,” Eric whispered.

“Eric…” Her next words died on a groan as he lifted her skirt and palmed her sex.

He caressed her through the crotch of her pantyhose for several long torturous moments before he slid his hands up to the waistband and pulled down her panties and hose in one rough swift motion.

“Eric, please do—”

He got to his knees, buried his head beneath her skirt and in an instant, Tabitha felt his mouth on her.

Unconsciously, she gyrated her hips, grinding her pelvis against his mouth, felt him open and explore her with his fingers before his tongue penetrated her.

Tabitha gasped and would have tipped over had he not held her steady, gripping and spreading her ass cheeks as he pushed his tongue into her pussy as deep as it would go, burrowing and circling like some piece of earth moving equipment—how freaking appropriate!

She felt his fingers again, thumb and forefinger rhythmically stimulating her clit, zinging hot flashes of sensation straight to kitty town.

God…she was…going to…explode!

Tabitha bit her bottom lip hard to keep from crying out, tasted blood in her mouth as an orgasm crashed down on her sudden as an epileptic seizure. She stiffened, then convulsed as Eric got to his feet and held her close.

She lay her head against his chest—just resting, just catching her breath, she told herself—listened to his speeding heartbeat echoing the pattern of hers, slowly opened her eyes and stepped out of his arms to see him smiling down at her.

“C’mere, I’ll kiss the hurt and make it better,” he said and leaned close, smelling of her juices, tasting of her essence, caressing her lips with his, sliding his tongue into her mouth.

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