A Secret Kiss

A Secret Kiss
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Published Date:31-07-2017
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Falling for Sakura: A Secret Kiss (Falling For Sakura Trilogy: Book One) Alexia Praks Copyright © 2015 by Alexia Praks All Rights Reserved This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without agreement and written permission of the author. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. The author can be reached at: www.alexiapraks.com The Throwaway Child Sayonara, my beautiful daughter. Mono no aware. You are like the sakura flower that blooms vibrantly in spring, just like this spring, so lovely and full of life and color. You are here in my life for only a short time, enchanting me with your innocent beauty and kind soul, and a brief moment later you are gone again, out of my life. Thus, I shall name you Sakura. I am sad, my darling daughter, to leave you behind. I am sad to never see you grow up, feel your love, or hear you call me “Okasama.” But I am not a worthy mother. Thus, sayonara, my beautiful Sakura. Sakura, with no last name, was found in spring on the doorstep of Queen Mary Orphanage in a small town called South Hampton in St. Joseph Island. Her mother mysteriously disappeared after leaving the baby girl in a basket along with a note that said My daughter’s name is Sakura and a beautiful necklace with a pink diamond pendant in the shape of a cherry blossom. Sakura was a shy, quiet girl. Her childhood lacked the love and affection that one receives from one’s parents. From very early on, she knew she didn’t have a mother or a father and longed to have 2 Alexia Praks them. She did not interact much with the other children in the orphanage, knowing she looked different, having half-Caucasian and half-Asian blood, and therefore she was constantly picked on. Mrs. Byrd, the headmistress of the orphanage, didn’t like Sakura very much, and neither did her pretty little daughter, Tara Byrd, who was Sakura’s age and her worst nightmare. It was apparent from very early on that Tara was destined to be Sakura’s enemy. The little blond-haired, blue-eyed girl enjoyed tormenting Sakura and making fun of her, isolating the girl from the rest and setting her as a target for her amusement. Tara knew she was pretty and everyone adored her. She had her mother and most of the staff at the orphanage wrapped around her little finger. Many times she would tell her mother, and everyone else for that matter, lies about Sakura. That Sakura worshiped heathen gods other than their Jesus Christ, spoke to the devil, stole food from the kitchen, bullied her or the younger children, and many more. Mrs. Byrd, always believing her beloved daughter, would punish Sakura many times, slapping the little girl on the cheeks, spanking her backside, taking away her toys and books, denying her meals, and making her kneel on the concrete floor in the church from midday until midnight without any food or water, all in order to teach her a lesson. Hence Sakura lived in the orphanage being bullied, hated, and ignored. Eventually, she grew accustomed to being alone and learned to endure the harassment. When she was told to pray to God for forgiveness for being a naughty girl, she prayed instead she’d get adopted by a nice family who loved her and to leave this horrendous place where no one liked her. Then she’d daydream about it actually happening, about her going far away and living with her very own family. Every night she’d imagine, smile, and thank the Lord for making her dream come true before it actually happened. Such was the power of positive thinking and law of attraction, come true one day. for Sakura’s dream did A Secret Kiss 3 The family she wanted to belong to appeared after she turned seven years old. It was during the summer, and the children of Queen Mary Orphanage were invited to have a picnic with the Princetons, the wealthiest family on St. Joseph Island and sponsors of the orphanage. Sakura knew the moment she stepped out of the bus and onto the neatly paved pathway and exotically beautiful garden that she wanted to be here. When she stared up at the enormous mansion like those castles in fairytale books, she sucked in her breath with pleasure. Her head spun in delight as she gazed up at the building that stretched high above her. “Whoa So pretty So big” the children murmured with delight. And Sakura agreed with them. The man of the house came out to greet them. He was very handsome with silvery-gray eyes and golden-blond hair, very much like Tara’s hair that everyone loved. He had a nice smile on his face as he greeted every one of them, and Sakura felt her heart quicken with happiness as his eyes met hers. There was kindness within those eyes that Sakura had never received from anyone before. The man ushered the children to the large garden with a gentle, rolling lawn and magnolia trees, where delicious food and sweet drinks waited for them to enjoy. That was when the whole family came out, and Sakura instantly fell in love with them and knew she wanted to be with them. They were a big family, just like she’d always wanted, and she did her best learning their names when they were introducing themselves to everyone. The nice father’s name was James Princeton, and the pretty mother’s was Brenda Princeton. The oldest son was Nicolas, who was twelve years old and had golden-blond hair and silvery-gray eyes like his father, complete with glasses. He looked kind and at the same time serious, just like his father. Then there were the ten- year-olds, nonidentical triplets: Tristan with golden-brown hair and teal-blue eyes, Logan with copper-brown hair and silvery-gray eyes, and Sebastian with pale-blond hair and azure-blue eyes. 4 Alexia Praks The boy with chestnut-brown hair and cobalt-blue eyes was eight-year-old Hayden. He had a mischievous look about him as he introduced himself. Next to Hayden were the nonidentical twins, Alaina and Darcy, at six years old. Alaina, the older sister by a mere three minutes, had honey-blond hair and baby blue eyes, and Darcy, the younger brother, had raven-black hair and mauve- gray eyes. And then there was the baby of the house, Conrad, at four years old, with golden-brown hair and silvery-gray eyes, hiding his face behind his mother’s skirt. Sakura couldn’t take her eyes off all of the children because they fascinated her. She felt a pang of longing as she watched them play with the other children, especially with pretty Tara. It wasn’t until late afternoon that Sakura became aware of one of the boys, Sebastian, watching her. “Where are you from?” he asked. “You’re not from around here, are you?” Sakura shook her head as she gazed at him, marveling at his blond hair that glittered like white gold under the sun and his azure-blue eyes, the same color as the beautiful summer sky that shone and stretched endlessly beyond the horizon. She knew very well what he meant, for the majority of the population living on St. Joseph Island was white, and she, a half- bred little girl who’d been cast away by her own parents, was a rare specimen indeed. “Her mother threw her away when she was a baby,” Tara said behind Sebastian. “Mommy said she’s tainted, a devil’s daughter, and no one wants her.” Sakura felt her heart thumping furiously in response, her face flushing with shame. She felt like running away to hide because she didn’t want this beautiful boy to know she was a throwaway, a piece of rubbish no one wanted, not even her own mother or father. Perhaps Tara was right. Perhaps she was tainted. Perhaps she was a devil’s daughter, and that was why no one wanted her. “How could a mother throw her own daughter away?” Nicolas asked. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his fine nose and A Secret Kiss 5 made a frown very much like his father when he was contemplating something very important. “That’s just mean.” Tristan stepped toward her and pulled her hair. “Maybe you are the devil’s daughter. Your hair is so black.” “And your skin is so white,” Logan put in, pinching her cheek. Sakura whined. “If she’s the devil’s daughter,” Alaina butted in, “then we shouldn’t be playing with her. We shouldn’t be talking to her at all. She might give us the pox or something.” The pretty girl shivered and pulled a face. “Has she given you anything nasty yet, Tara?” Tara laughed. “No, not yet. Not unless nightmares count. Mama said she cries at night and it sounds like a ghost. So we shouldn’t talk to her at all. Otherwise, she’ll give us nightmares.” Alaina shivered and hugged Tara. “I don’t want nightmares. Go away, you devil witch. You’re a bad witch just like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz.” Sebastian frowned at his sister. “Don’t be silly, Alaina. She’s no witch, and she won’t give us nightmares. She’s just a little girl.” “Oh? How do you know for sure?” Alaina remarked. “You’re so skinny and short like a dwarf,” Hayden said. “But those dwarves in books aren’t that skinny like you.” Sakura blushed, feeling a bit overwhelmed at being the center of attention. She could feel herself shaking from nervousness and took a few steps back to get some space. “I think she looks like Snow White,” Darcy said. His hand reached out and stroked her hair. “Really black hair and really pale skin.” Sakura gasped at the intimate contact and turned to look at him, her eyes shining. No one had ever stroked her hair before, and for him to do so caused her heart to flutter with joy. Little Darcy grinned at her, his eyes sparkling as he moved his fingers to caress her face, marveling at the soft, pale skin. Sakura shyly returned his smile, liking his warmth and his gentle, feathery touches. Her wee heart glowed, and she felt warm 6 Alexia Praks all over. She wondered if this was what it felt like to have a real family, to have someone love you and care for you. Tara laughed hoarsely. “Don’t be silly, Darcy. She’s ugly and a devil’s daughter. Don’t go near her.” She grabbed the collar of his shirt and pulled him back, away from Sakura. Darcy glared at Tara. “Why’d you do that for?” “Just get away from her” Tara snapped, frowning darkly at Darcy. Darcy scowled. “I don’t want to. I like her.” “Darcy” Alaina shrieked. “How could you like her? She’s the devil’s daughter” “She’s not the devil’s daughter” Darcy replied firmly, taking Sakura by the hand. Tara looked as though she was about to scream her head off but held herself in check before she embarrassed herself in front of the Princeton siblings. “What’s your name?” Nicolas asked. Sakura was so conscious of Darcy’s warm hand clasping around hers that she didn’t hear Nicolas. When he patiently asked her again, she glanced up, licked her lips nervously, and said, “Sakura.” “Sa… What?” Hayden asked. “Sa-ku-ra,” Sakura said again. “What does it mean?” Tristan butted in, his head cocked to one side. Sakura shrugged her small shoulders and lowered her head to avoid their gazes. She felt rather ashamed that she didn’t know what her name meant, but she was determined to find out once she got back to the orphanage. “That name is too hard to pronounce,” Logan said to himself. “Why don’t we give you another name? A nickname?” Sakura glanced up, her heart pounding with delight. Oh God, she thought. They are giving me a nickname. Does that mean they’re my friends? “Why would you give her a nickname?” Tara asked in annoyance. A Secret Kiss 7 “Yeah Why?” Alaina shouted at her brother. “I want a nickname, too,” Tara demanded, furrowing her pretty brows. “Your name is easy to pronounce,” Sebastian said. “And it’s kind of short already.” “How about Sarah?” Nicolas suggested. “It’s a popular name, and it means princess.” Tara butted in instantly. “But she’s not a princess. She doesn’t even look like a princess. She’s a devil’s daughter.” “She looks like Snow White to me,” Darcy said again, smiling at Sakura. “We can call her Snow or something.” “What? Just because she has black hair and pale skin?” Tara muttered unhappily. “She’s plain and ugly like Mommy said. So we should give her a plain and ugly name.” “Yes, we should do that,” Alaina said, nodding her head furiously. “What about Sally?” Sebastian suggested. “It sounds pretty close to Sa-ku… Sa-ku-ra.” “Yes, Sally sounds about right,” Tara said, nodding her head. “She is silly, after all, and it rhymes, I think. Sakura is a silly girl. Sally and silly.” She laughed loudly. “Silly Sally.” And so Sakura had a nickname that she herself did not have a vote in, and soon the children returned to their play and forgot all about her. Every night after that day, Sakura prayed the Princetons would adopt her into their family. Then one day her dream came true in the most bizarre way. The orphanage was on fire and the whole building burned down, killing Mrs. Byrd, though all of the children and staff escaped. After some hard and fast investigation by the police, it was found that Mrs. Byrd had been smoking in the kitchen while the gas was still on, thus leading to an explosion. However, a rumor was spread that Sakura was actually responsible for starting the fire by leaving the oven gas turned on. Though she had done no such thing, she could not rebuke the claim that Tara and her friends made as witnesses to the whole 8 Alexia Praks ordeal. Soon Sakura found herself hated by everyone who knew her, and she lost all hope of an adoption. One week after the incident, James Princeton walked in, claiming that such a nice young girl couldn’t have done such a terrible thing, and since she had nowhere to go and no one would take her, he and his wife would adopt her. Sakura was so relieved and happy over this man’s kindness that, for the first time in her seven years, she cried in front of everyone. James wiped away her tears, told her everything would be all right, lifted her into his arms, and took her home to his family. A Secret Kiss 9 Sakura, the Lonely Flower Sakura Princeton stroked the strands of her long tresses away from her face. The glossy locks refused to obey her and fell back in place. She muttered under her breath and tossed them back, bunching up the curls and letting them fall to one side of her slender shoulder. Then she turned just so to the right to get into a good position, lifted the camera up to her eyes, and when she thought the lighting was as good as it was going to get, she clicked on the record button. Click Click Click Click Just then a gust of wind blew, loosening her hair and fluttering it about. She, however, paid no heed to this as she was too consumed with what she was doing. It’s perfect Just what she needed. Countless cherry blossom petals were flying all around her like rain. Click Click Click Click It was so beautiful, wildflowers and cherry blossoms in the woods giving out myriads of colors. It’d be perfect for her painting. She took a step back in order to take in the whole picture—cherry blossoms, leaves, trees, and wildflowers in the background. Then click, click, click, click. Once she thought she’d taken enough photos, she lowered the camera and smiled with satisfaction. 10 Alexia Praks “You’re going to be my bestseller this week,” she said, tapping her finger on the petal. “And I thank you for that.” Then she imagined the digits increasing in her bank account—and yes, that also meant her plan to go overseas was getting closer to reality too. She turned to pick up her bag, tossed it over her shoulder, and headed back toward the road as she hummed to herself. Woof Woof Woof Sakura felt something soft grazing against her legs. She glanced down and saw a cute dog with fluffy white fur and large black eyes watching her, begging for her attention. The West Highland white terrier barked her a happy greeting. “Where have you been, Toby?” she greeted back. “I told you not to go too far. You might get lost. What if I couldn’t find you? What would you do then? You’d become an orphan.” Sakura knew exactly what it was like to be an orphan. It was a most terrible feeling to have no one to share your love, your fear, your happiness, or your experiences. It was a lonely existence, and no one deserved that. “You wouldn’t want that now, would you?” she queried Toby as she bent down to pick him up. The dog stuck out his tongue and licked her cheek. She couldn’t help herself and giggled. The fact was Sakura really loved Toby since it was she who had found him half-buried in the snow in the depths of the woods three winters ago. The pup was lost and very sick, having been abandoned by his owner who had left St. Joseph Island and never returned. If it hadn’t been for her, Toby could’ve died from starvation and hypothermia. The pup, later named Toby by Sakura herself, had known it had been Sakura who saved him and had taken a liking to her immediately, doting on her and following her wherever she went. “Don’t” She told him off. The dog looked somewhat disappointed as he tried to lick her again. “It’s your fault for not listening to me, Toby.” She returned him to the ground. “Now then, I think it’s time to head back. I do have many more things to do before dinner.” She paused, looking up at the beautiful A Secret Kiss 11 spring sky; her eyes narrowed against the bright sunlight. “And then there’s Saturday.” She frowned, and her heart skipped a beat. Saturday would come all too soon, the day when everyone would be arriving for the wedding and the holiday. There’d be so many people Sakura didn’t know. But of course that didn’t matter. What really mattered—and what really worried her—was the fact that her adopted brothers—all seven of them—would be coming as well since it was their cousin Mary’s wedding. Sakura cocked her head to one side as she thought about the brothers. There were the very responsible, father-like figure Nicolas; the very popular, mischievous triplets Tristan, Logan, and Sebastian; the disobedient, bad-boy Hayden; the smart, arrogant Darcy, who disliked her most since those unfortunate incidents thirteen years ago; and lastly nice, sincere Conrad. Of course she couldn’t really forget about Tara, Alaina, and their big-city friends. They’d no doubt only be too happy to be back and make Sakura’s life as miserable as possible. But Sakura too had grown up into a fine woman and strong-willed. So Daddy James told her many times. Hence, come hell or high water, Sakura wasn’t going to put up with their nastiness this time. After all, she had her own life and her own plans for the future to worry about and therefore had no time for their bull. As she breathed in the fresh spring air and strolled along the woodland, a thought suddenly struck her. She nibbled her lower lip, her eyes gazing off into the far distance to the sea beyond. Would they still remember her, though? She scoffed at the thought immediately. Of course not If they remembered anything about her at all, it was probably the pranks they had played on her and the many scoldings they had received from Daddy James and Mom Brenda because of her. Not that she’d ever been the one who told on them. It had always been pretty Tara, who was also adopted by the Princetons, and Alaina who had been the masterminds behind everything. Then they’d all gone off to boarding school—the boys to St. Michael’s Boarding School for Boys, one of the most prestigious schools in America, 12 Alexia Praks and Tara and Alaina to Princess Margaret’s Boarding School for Girls, also one of the most prestigious schools in America. Not very long after, Sakura too had gone off to St. Helensburgh Boarding School for Girls where she met her friends Mary Collins, who also turned out to be the boys’ cousin from their mother’s side, and Katherine Hodge, a girl from a good family who also lived on St. Joseph Island. She, Mary, and Katherine had many lovely times together, helping each other with schoolwork and enjoying each other’s company, both in and out of school. Back then, during the holidays, Sakura would stay with the Collinses at their farm in California, enjoying her times there with Mary, Katherine, and Mary’s brother, Richard. Then every so often Daddy James and Mom Brenda would come and stay with them for a couple of days along with Dale and Molly, her adopted grandparents from Daddy James’s side of the family. During those times, Sakura had never felt more warm, happy, and complete to have such a wonderful circle of family and friends. Hence she never really saw the boys—nor Alaina and Tara for that matter—ever since she left thirteen years ago. By the time she completed her science degree at UCLA and had returned to St. Joseph Island to work in the local hospital, they all had left home completely to live wherever their hearts had taken them. Of course, she had no idea where they were living now, and to be frankly honest, neither did she care. “So what do you think they’re like now?” she asked Toby, who was busy sticking his tongue out and sniffing the air with interest. Sakura cocked her head to one side, wondering. “Nicolas would be twenty-eight by now,” she murmured to herself, picturing the young Nicolas when she last saw him when he was fifteen years old. “The triplets?” She cocked her head to the other side, watching Toby wagging his tail as he was sniffing something of interest to him in the bush not too far away. “They’d be what? Twenty-six?” The picture of the three when they were thirteen flashed in her mind. “What about Hayden and the twins?” Hayden would be twenty-four by now, and the twins, Alaina Yes, and Darcy, would be twenty-two. A Secret Kiss 13 The name Darcy caused her heart to skip a beat, and that odd, dull pain was still there, lingering within her being, reminding her of what had happened that summer thirteen years ago. Then there was Conrad, the baby of the house. “Yes,” she murmured to herself, gently touching the overgrown tall grasses, “he’d be twenty by now.” “And me,” she said under her breath, her heart pounding within her chest. “I’ll be twenty-four in a couple of weeks.” But then again, she thought, April the 8th wasn’t her actual birthdate. It was the date she was found on the doorstep of the orphanage, and she’d already been more than a couple of days old. Looking back, she thought how Tara had fit right in with the family as if she were born into it. Sakura, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to make even one sibling like her at all. It had hurt because she badly wanted them to accept her. She wanted them to love and care for her as their sister. That, however, was not to be. It didn’t matter now, though, because there were Daddy James, Mom Brenda, Dale, and Molly who loved her. There was also Beth Faber, the housekeeper, who always doted on her in her own weird way. And of course Ned Faber, Beth’s young brother, who treated her like his own child since he had none and longed for one. Not to mention her real mother, the woman she’d never met. Deep down, Sakura knew her mother loved her because otherwise the woman wouldn’t have given her a name—a very beautiful Japanese name—that meant cherry blossom and left her a cherry blossom pendant necklace. She found out not too long ago that the pendant stone was a rare pink diamond which was of the finest quality and very expensive. She knew without a doubt there had to be a reason her mother had abandoned her, and Sakura was determined to find the woman and then… Then what? Unconsciously, she touched the pink diamond about her neck. When the wedding was over, she’d be going out there into the world—she didn’t care where—to find her mother. 14 Alexia Praks With that thought in mind, she smiled up at the sky and closed her eyes, savoring this very moment, cherishing it in her memory, and praying very hard that soon she’d find the woman who had given her life. A Secret Kiss 15 Sebastian Princeton, Prince of Hearts Sebastian Princeton wanted to kill his triplet siblings—Tristan and Logan—for making his life a living hell. First they invited themselves into his luxurious apartment in Manhattan. Though there were five large bedrooms, a fitness room, a modern kitchen, a cinema room, and a comfy lounge, he still thought it was a bit crowded, having gotten so used to living alone for the past five years with only the occasional visits from his parents and grandparents. The first night, they brought in their friends and had a blast partying in the house, emptying his beloved cellar and fridge and destroying some of his precious paintings and photographs he’d bought from an unknown, talented artist he greatly admired. The second night, they refused to let him stay home to finish his work and dragged him out drinking until the early hours of the morning. Their argument was, “It’s Saturday” The third night, they told him to get packing because they were leaving for St. Joseph Island three days early for their cousin Mary’s wedding to surprise the bride-to-be—and their mom and dad, of course. 16 Alexia Praks Sebastian knew instantly it was that damn Tristan’s idea, who only wanted to annoy the hell out of him, and naturally Logan went along. Then Hayden arrived on his motorbike, crashing on Sebastian’s king-size bed without an invitation, informing them he was now homeless and girlfriendless. His super-hot girlfriend had kicked him out after she’d seen him hugging another gorgeous guy and had wrongly assumed him to be gay and cheating on her. The guy, of course, turned out to be Darcy. Tristan burst out laughing until his stomach hurt when Hayden explained that he’d been comforting Darcy by patting Darcy’s shoulder—not hugging him—who’d had a really bad breakdown because his girlfriend dumped him for another guy. Then Darcy arrived—all wounded and heartbroken like a little pup—as Tristan kept telling everyone, including Darcy himself, who in fact didn’t give a shit whether this new ex-girlfriend of his dumped him or not and was indeed very glad the stagnated relationship was over. Tristan insisted they had no choice but to comfort Darcy by taking him out drinking until early dawn, which in due course led to a house full of men with hangovers the next morning accompanied by lots of moaning, groaning, and of course very colorful cursing from Darcy, who naturally wanted to also murder Tristan for his distasteful tricks. They all knew Darcy couldn’t handle much alcohol, and they forced him to have shots after shots after shots. By that evening, they were completely sober except for Darcy, who was still nursing his headache. Sebastian, on the other hand, had had enough and swore if this ever happened again, he’d murder his brothers for sure. The next day, Sebastian was on a warpath once again. It was entirely their fault that he was now as wet and cold as a drowned kitten and his laptop stuffed up. If Tristan and Logan hadn’t been fooling around near the railing on the lower deck of their two- million dollar, brand-spanking-new luxury yacht, trying to kill each other to get a peek at his new apartment plan, then he and his laptop wouldn’t have gotten thrown off board into the ocean. A Secret Kiss 17 Furthermore, if he wasn’t such an excellent swimmer, since he’d been one of the best professional athlete swimmers during his late teens, he could have buried himself and his laptop deep under the ocean. “I’m sure Hayden can fix it,” Tristan said coolly, throwing him a dry towel. Sebastian glared at his brother as the towel landed on his head, partially covering his handsome face and azure-blue eyes that were glinting with fire. “Nope. Can’t fix it,” Hayden said matter-of-factly. “It’s totally stuffed, bro. Better get a new one.” “Jesus My work” Sebastian muttered, looking heavenward as he pulled down the towel. “It’s not the laptop It’s my work” he growled. “Surely you have a backup, right?” Conrad, the youngest of the brothers, put in calmly from the other side of the pool. “Of course, but—” “Ah.” Logan butted in, putting down his martini. “Girlfriends.” “What?” Sebastian snapped. He was at his limit and was ready to throw at least one of them into the ocean, and that person was preferably Tristan who was smiling cheekily on the other side of the pool a good distance away. Tristan knew he was in trouble, and it was best for him to keep out of reach since Sebastian had very powerful fists. After all, Tristan had seen too many times to count when perfectly good- looking faces got restructured into very distorted ones with a few of Sebastian’s mighty punches. Of course, Tristan didn’t want his gorgeous face to be ruined, and what would he do without his handsome face and flirty smile? The girls wouldn’t bed him, that was for sure, and Tristan would be very devastated indeed. “He’s pissed because all his girlfriends’ photos are ruined,” Logan said matter-of-factly, emphasizing the word girlfriends as plural. “Don’t be ridiculous” Sebastian replied. Though he had to admit it was losing the photos that really pissed him off since he hadn’t backed up some of the most recent ones on his hard drive.

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