To Santa with Love

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Restless and taking a break from school, Jacquie Grey heads west and tangles with an Arizona rancher when she crashes into his truck and agrees to care for his son to pay for the repairs to her car. This is a revised and expanded version of The Master Fiddler, originally published by Mills & Boon in 1977.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420120738
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 10/1/2011
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 699,476
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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To Santa With Love


By Janet Dailey

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2011 Janet Dailey
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4201-2073-8


Chapter One

After traveling westward from Dallas for what seemed like forever, the unending desert scenery had begun to bore Jacqueline Grey. The cloudless sky was bleached of blue, arching over a vast landscape of jumbled rocks and arid soil. The gnarled shrubs that survived here were more gray than green beneath the late November sun.

Jacquie raised a hand and let her gold bracelets jangle away from her wristwatch. It was almost noon. She'd gotten a late start out of Bisbee, Arizona, but considering that she hadn't gone to bed until after midnight, she figured she deserved credit for being behind the wheel and well on her way.

A wry smile curved her full lips. No one using a computer program to map out a trip from Dallas to Los Angeles would ever be routed through Bisbee, Arizona. The detour had been her idea. Her girlfriend Tammy had recently moved there with her husband. The old mining town definitely had charm, bustling with visitors admiring its Victorian houses and climbing its hilly streets. But something about it had unsettled Jacquie. Maybe it was seeing Christmas decorations going up in the shops and boutiques—everything from strings of chili-pepper lights to a cowboy Santa with eight tiny coyotes pulling his sleigh. It just seemed too early for the seasonal displays, no matter what the calendar said. All the same, she'd been grateful for Tammy's hospitality, though she had been eager to get going again. Until she'd hit this unvarying stretch of road.

The sun glared on the asphalt ahead. A dull pain throbbed at Jacquie's temples, an unpleasant reminder of too many margaritas last night. With one hand on the steering wheel, she fumbled through her leather purse for sunglasses.

Once in place on the bridge of her nose, the lightly tinted lenses shaded her eyes, hiding their unusual turquoise-green color without concealing the curling length of her thick lashes. A raking movement of her long fingernails flipped the hair that had fallen across her cheek back over her shoulder. Sleek as cornsilk, her hair was a mix of pale gold and fine silver, an unusual but completely natural hue.

She glanced at her reflection in the rearview mirror without really seeing it, feeling the headache begin to fade away.

Jacquie was aware of her looks without being conceited about them—since she'd hit her teens, she got noticed a lot and she didn't mind. As a child she was told often enough that she was going to grow up to be a beautiful young woman, and she still got more than her fair share of compliments, which she didn't dismiss. But she had her parents to thank for good genes, healthy habits, and an excellent dentist.

As for faults, Jacquie would readily admit to having her share of those too. For starters, she was too much her father's daughter—headstrong, independent, and proud. Secondly, she was spoiled. As an only child of relatively well-off parents, she'd been, to a certain extent, pampered and indulged. Naturally, she had a temper, a very human trait. And a few other shortcomings, just like everyone else.

Miles and miles of driving down lonely roads were making her cranky and self-absorbed, Jacquie thought irritably. The radio wasn't pulling in any stations and she'd switched it off. She'd tried singing to herself but the songs she could remember only echoed the restless mood that had bugged her for the last several months—and brought her here to southern Arizona en route to California.

When she'd finally made it to Tammy's house, she'd tried to make her road trip sound like a fabulous adventure. She'd struck out on her own for the first time, stopping only occasionally on the fifteen-hour drive from Dallas to Bisbee. The argument she'd had with her dad, Cameron Grey, before she'd left home had been laughingly related for Tammy's benefit.

But in reality it hadn't been funny at all. Remembering it, Jacquie wished she could take back some of the bitter words she'd hurled. Since she hadn't understood the reason for her restlessness, she hadn't been able to explain it to her father or, later, her mother.

Looking to the horizon for oncoming trucks on the road—there were none and no cars either—she mentally replayed the fight. Round One: her announcement that she hadn't taken her midterm exams. Without telling her parents in advance, Jacquie had filed to withdraw from all her courses, essentially putting her university education on hold. She wasn't sure she wanted to continue. She hadn't known why. But maybe, in retrospect, she'd waited a little too long to 'fess up to what she'd done.

"What do you mean?" her father had demanded, an incredulous frown wrinkling his forehead. "You only have two years before you get your degree."

"My degree in what, Dad?" Jacquie had replied somewhat cynically. "I'm a liberal arts major, which means I'm just getting an education in a little bit of everything because I don't know what I want."

"College is your best chance to figure that out," he'd retorted. "At least you're getting an education."

He just didn't want to understand. "I told you—it's not as if I'm flunking everything," she'd said heatedly. "Students in good standing are allowed to withdraw if they file in time. There's no penalty."

"Maybe so. But there are a lot of people in this world who'd love to trade places with you."

"You're so right." Jacquie had seized on her father's attempt to remind her of her good fortune. "And one of them can take my place. The university admits less than one-tenth of applicants. I'm making room for someone out there on the waiting list."

"My, my. How magnanimous of you," her father had mocked. "And just what do you plan to do instead of attending college?"

"The very same thing I would do after I graduate." She'd been on shaky ground and she'd known it, but she was unable to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. "Get a job."

Frustrated, her father ran a hand through his silvergray hair. "Really. Good luck. Without an education, what kind of job do you think you'll get? In this economy—"

"I don't even know what kind of job I want," she interrupted him, adding quickly, "and sitting in a classroom isn't going to tell me." She'd steered clear of the subject of the economy, not wanting her dad, a devotee of financial news and online money blogs, to go off on a tangent.

"A degree is worth more than you seem to think. A lot more. Let me give you an idea of jobs that don't require one. Waitress. Sales associate. Hairdresser. Office go-fer. Housekeeper."

"Excuse me?" Jacquie hadn't liked the condescending tone of his voice. "Those happen to be honest jobs."

"I never said they weren't," he answered defensively. "But is it wrong to want something more for my daughter?"

"Like what?"

"A career," he retorted. "Do I have to spell it out?" He didn't wait for an answer, forging on. "Don't you want to find challenging work that you love? Would it be so bad if it paid well? And someday," he added, going for broke, "how about you find yourself a husband with smarts and ambition? I don't see you marrying a truck driver, if you really want to know."

"Don't be a snob," she said scornfully. "Truck drivers make pretty good money, from what I hear."

"You're not planning—"

"To drive a semi? No, Dad. But I'm keeping an open mind. Besides, you aren't paying fifty thousand a year in tuition just so I can meet Mr. Right. Believe me, he hasn't showed and besides, I want to be on my own for a while."

He'd glared at her. "What do you know about earning your own living, Jacquie? You haven't done a day's work in your life!" he snapped. "It's rare to even see you helping your mother around the house!"

That was the point when really angry words had flown back and forth. Her father's angry accusations, mostly to the effect that Jacquie was expecting a free ride, financed by him, forced her to insist on her right to live the way she wanted—and she backed it up by vowing that she wanted nothing from him. Her mother, wiser than both of them, had stayed out of it completely. Thinking of her, Jacquie felt a pang of guilt.

The fight had concluded with slammed doors and mutual antagonism. She'd known her father would simmer down eventually. Whether he would ever understand her point of view was an open question. But no matter what, she'd had to leave, if only to see if she really could make it on her own, at least for a while.

The end result of the argument: she was on her way to Los Angeles to start a whole new life. Why there? No particular reason. It'd been the first big city that came to mind when her dad demanded to know where she was going.

Before she had answered his question, he'd bitterly added that he was sure she would stay close enough to run home when the world got too rough—and just like that, Los Angeles had popped into her head. It was as far west as she could go, that was all, and not the city she would have chosen if she'd given it more thought. But once the answer was out of her mouth, Jacquie was too stubborn to be talked out of her choice.

A glance at the speedometer of her foreign economy car made her ease up on the accelerator with a rueful sigh. So far she'd gotten a speeding ticket in Texas, another in New Mexico, and a hangover in Bisbee. Not an auspicious beginning for her whole new life.

She was still trying to ignore the niggling feeling that her dad might be right. Once out of the pleasant neighborhood she'd grown up in and heading down the highway, she had realized it would take weeks to get settled elsewhere, even temporarily, and find work. And there were other things to consider.

Like the holidays.

When she and her father had retreated to their corners, he'd seemed to assume that she'd given up or given in, but she hadn't. Jacquie startled him into speechlessness with her second announcement: she was going to get a head start on her plans by leaving home before Thanksgiving. Her mother still hadn't wanted to get between her stiff-necked husband and just-as-stubborn daughter. Maureen Grey had said with a sigh that there were a million turkeys in the world and one would now be spared, and added that there would be other Thanksgivings in the future. But Jacquie still felt bad about taking off the way she had.

Christmas was five weeks away. Even if she could land a job in California, she knew that time off wouldn't be automatic for a new hire. It looked like she wouldn't be going home for the holidays. This little rattletrap wasn't built for thousand-mile commutes and her pride wouldn't let her accept airfare from her parents.

Never in her life had Jacquie imagined a Thanksgiving without family, but by that Thursday morning, she'd arrived at Tammy's. Later in the day, the three of them had gone to a good restaurant in Bisbee for a fixed-price, home-style feast featuring chestnut stuffing, cream gravy, cranberry sauce, and a gigantic roast turkey, sliced to order, that made the rounds of the dining room on a clanking cart. Not quite like home.

But there'd been no cooking to do and no cleanup—Tammy disliked both and her husband was fine with whatever she wanted. Secretly, Jacquie found her girlfriend's solution a little depressing. She'd managed to be a good sport, but she'd learned her lesson. Spending Christmas on her own with casual pals and no family at all wasn't going to be wonderful.

Jacquie sighed. She would just have to think about how she'd handle that when the time came. Not now.

She jabbed a manicured finger at the radio buttons again, picking up a country music station playing a vaguely familiar melody. When she realized she was listening to an instrumental arrangement of a Christmas carol, she frowned and switched the radio off. She must be nearing civilization, she thought, looking for a radio or microwave tower, not seeing either. But the desert wasn't as empty as it appeared.

Before long the roofs of a small town appeared ahead of her. Jacquie had had only coffee for breakfast, her stomach not up for anything more substantial in the morning, even with her late start. She realized that the hollow, queasy feeling was linked to her persistent headache.

She felt no curiosity as to what small town it might be. Other than verifying which highway would take her into Tucson, Jacquie hadn't paid much attention to the route she'd picked out that morning on a gas station map. The car didn't have GPS, and her smartphone had chirped its last and died in Bisbee. Somewhere along the way she'd realized that the charger for it was back in Dallas and it wasn't the kind you could pick up just anywhere. Especially not in ... she squinted at the sign that announced the town limits of Tombstone, Arizona.

Driving on, she caught her first glimpses of the place. It wasn't very big. Colorful signs done up in old-timey lettering adorned storefronts and other enterprises. The covered sidewalks made of planks provided shade for a few aimless tourists in neatly pressed chinos and fanny packs, and jeans-clad locals going about their business.

Turning the car into the driveway of a service station, Jacquie entertained an idle thought of having lunch somewhere around here, then wandering through the historic western town. It wasn't totally decked out with holiday stuff yet, though she caught a few glimpses of red and green.

She spoke to the station attendant, a young guy in coveralls, who gave her directions to the restaurants located on the main street of the town, two short blocks from the highway.

More concerned with her destination than oncoming traffic, Jacquie started to accelerate across the road. A horn blared. Her startled gaze swung toward the sound, seeing the jeep an instant before it crunched and bounced off the front side of her car. Neither vehicle had been traveling very fast, but the collision gave her a heavy-duty jolt.

Shaken but unhurt, Jacquie tried to open her car door. The glimpse just before the impact of a little blond boy sitting in the passenger seat of the jeep filled her mind with terrifying thoughts. Her door was jammed. Her frightened attempts to open it failed until a superior force from outside yanked it open.

Jacquie stared into the tanned, lean face bending toward her. The man's cheekbones and jawline could have been sculptured out of granite, relentlessly hard and grim. His mouth was thinned into a forbidding line—she couldn't see much more of his face. A dusty brown Stetson was pulled low on his forehead. The sunglasses he wore revealed only the silvery, slightly distorted reflection of her own image.

She was clutching the wheel for dear life even though the car had come to a halt, looking up at him, stunned and shocked. Not liking what she could see of herself, Jacquie turned her head away from him.

"Are you all right?" his growling voice demanded.

Her heart seemed to be lodged in her throat, choking off any words she might have wanted to speak. Jacquie was reduced to nodding numbly to let him know that she was okay. There was an ominous tightening of the man's jawline before he straightened and moved away.

On wobbly legs, Jacquie forced herself to step out of the car. Her heart raced at a crazy pace and her breathing was much too shallow—both aftereffects of the collision, she told herself unsteadily. She pressed fingertips to her temples, which were throbbing again, harder, wondering if she'd blacked out for a second or two at impact, or worse, suffered a concussion. Then she raised her head to gaze at the man standing tall in front of her.

Five foot six in socks, Jacquie wasn't short by normal standards, but the man was a lot taller than she was, easily over six foot with broad shoulders, taut abs and not an ounce of spare flesh. His hands rested on a concho belt slung through the fraying loops of well-worn jeans. She moved her gaze to the stern face.

"You didn't even look when you pulled out," the man accused her. His low voice reminded her of thunder rolling to a crescendo. "Of all the empty-headed, featherbrained—"

The rest was bit off in midsentence as a barely perceptible movement of his head indicated a shift in his attention. Jacquie glanced hesitantly over her shoulder. The little blond boy she'd glimpsed in the jeep was hobbling toward them on crutches, his right leg in a bright blue fiberglass cast decorated with stickers.

Her heart sank, until she realized that he didn't seem at all fazed. His rounded eyes were riveted on her.

"Are you really all right?" the boy asked anxiously.

Her voice returned in a sighing laugh as her mouth curved into a tremulous smile. "Yes, thank you. I mean, I'm scared out of my wits," she admitted, "but I'm not hurt."

"I thought I told you to stay in the jeep, Robbie."

The boy's eyes flickered to the man beside Jacquie, then skittered to the rocky ground near his feet, his chin tucked against his chest. "Yessir," he said.

The boy's concern was genuine and Jacquie couldn't stop herself from trying to soften his father's rather harsh attitude. The return of her voice brought a return of her poise and strength. Ignoring the man beside her, she walked the few steps to Robbie.

"How about you?" she asked gently, pushing her sunglasses on top of her silver blond head and bending toward him. "Are you okay?"

He peered at her through stubby brown lashes, his gaze locking with fascination on the long hair that swung forward over her cheeks. "Yes ma'am."

"I'm glad to hear that." Jacquie smiled.

"Your hair is pretty," he said absently.

Her eyes darted to his tousled head. "Yours is almost the same color," she pointed out.

The small, thin fingers of his right hand, the arm resting on the crook of his crutch, moved forward as if to touch the spun silver gold of her hair, but the man's voice put a stop to that.

"Wait for me at the station with the attendant, Robbie," the man ordered crisply.

The small chin lowered again. "Yessir," the boy mumbled. His hands tightened on the crutches to propel himself forward, offering a tentative smile to Jacquie. "I'm happy you didn't get hurt."

"So am I." Jacquie straightened and watched his awkward progress toward the service station.

The man's broad shoulders blocked her vision after the boy had gone farther. Oh well. She supposed the time had come to trade insurance information and contact numbers and get that hassle out of the way.

The set line of his mouth told her that he wasn't looking forward to it either. He didn't say his name or reach into the jeep for the necessary papers. She would take the initiative. Recovering some of her usual aplomb, Jacquie smiled warmly.

"I know an apology isn't enough, but I really am sorry about the accident. I'm not usually so careless," she offered.

The mirroring sunglasses prevented her from seeing his eyes, yet she couldn't shake the sensation that his gaze had just raked her curving figure, taking note of the snug fit of her jeans and the bare skin of her middle revealed by a crop top of clinging knit. Not exactly the right weather, now that she was out of her car, for such revealing clothes, but so what. She didn't care and he didn't seem to either. Not one flicker of admiration appeared on the man's carved features.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from To Santa With Love by Janet Dailey Copyright © 2011 by Janet Dailey . Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2011

    I had to force myself to finish this book.

    This was one of the worst books I have read in years. It was not only poorly written, but the characters were not believable and completely unlikable. Don't let the "santa" in the title fool you...there is very little that is Christmasy about this book. I noticed the other reviewer stated that she gave up rather than finish...she was the smart one. I wasted my time hoping that it would get better. It never did and now I feel like I wasted my time (and money) on this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2011

    Mediocre and uninspired

    To Santa With Love by Janey Dailey is the worst Christmas themed romance books that I have ever had the misfortune of reading. It would have better been served by publishing this book under those cheesy, trashy Harlequin novels that come out every month. Actually, I have read quite a few of those novels and many are written better than this book. It was a bad story, with plot holes so big I could drive my SUV through them. I found myself rooting for neither of the main characters, as they each were so flawed that I could not find a good quality in either of them. I will definitely be passing on reading anything by this author ever again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2012

    I can say that this is honestly one of the worst bookds I have e

    I can say that this is honestly one of the worst bookds I have ever read. Since when does a hero who is a complete jerk and a spoiled, immature heroine equal romance? This was the first book I have read by this author and it will be my last.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2012

    Ugh...where do I start? Romance is not my genre...I like literat

    Ugh...where do I start? Romance is not my genre...I like literature and books with soul. However my dirty little secret is that I adore Christmas themed romance. So I picked this up (way off season in June) at a local used book store and couldn't wait to get started. I don't even know where to begin...the book was abysmal. None of the characters were likable and I could not finish it. I made it halfway through before I tossed it in the pile of kindling we have for the outdoor fireplace. Normally I would pass this book on to someone else, or donate it, but it was so bad I did not want to torture anyone else by having them waste their time on reading it. I will not be reading any other books by Janet Dailey. I have no idea how she is so popular.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2012

    Outdated, poor writing, unlikable characters. Need I say more? T

    Outdated, poor writing, unlikable characters. Need I say more? This book is the reason why the romance genre and it's readers are made fun of by so many people. I did not finish this book and sent it in a box of donations going to Goodwill.

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  • Posted January 4, 2012

    Fun!

    Janet Dailey provides us with a great easy read for the holidays!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    great

    To Santa with love by janet dailey
    Jacquie has had it with her dad. She finishes college for the term and leaves.
    She takes her foreign car and travels from Texas to LA. She stops in AZ to visit with a friend that just got married. When she leaves there she runs into a man who has a little boy with him. The garage will fix her car but it's going to take several days to even get the parts in. After spending almost all her money from staying at the
    nearby motel she's been enjoying her leisure time by discovering the little town and all it's treasures: museums, gardens, etc. The man she ran into comes to her help when he offers her a job at his ranch with his dad and son so she can pay off the car and be
    on her way. They figure it will take several weeks worth of work.
    She wants to be independent and do everything on her own to show her parents that she can do it.
    She goes for a ride on the horse and the horses leg is injured now, so she dismounts and looks around to find out she has no idea where she is.
    Things do get better but she realizes the real things in life are meant to fight for.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2011

    Great Holiday Book

    Love the book! Great storyline, keep me interested all through the story

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  • Posted November 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An updated version of one of her older novels

    Sheltered semi spoiled 21 year old Jaquie Grey decides college isn¿t for her and against her parents wishes is going to LA to find a job and grow up, however, little Tombstone Arizona got in her way and so did rancher Choya Barnett, literally as she runs her car into his jeep. Now she finds herself with a lost wallet and no way to pay for repairs. Choya Barnett has no room in his life for a spoiled girl from Dallas especially when she¿s captured his small son¿s heart and will no doubt break it into millions of pieces. But he¿s caught between a rock and a cactus and has to help her when she¿s without money and her wallets gone missing. He gives her a job as his housekeeper and just hopes that he¿ll get away with his heat intact too. These two very different people find themselves wanting the same things in life, but are they the right people for each other. This novel was originally published in 1977 under the name of The Master Fiddler and has been expanded and updated. This talented author has given us many years of great stories and wonderful characters. The story line here is of souls reaching out to each other from different directions and finding each other despite that. The dialogue is as easy going as the lifestyle in this small Arizona town. The characters I expected better of from Ms. Dailey, it might be that the tale doesn¿t update well I¿m not really sure and although I learned to like these two it took a great deal of the book to do it. And even though I did come to care for Choya and Jaquie is was Choya¿s son Robbie and his dad Sam who were the stars in this read. They stole the show with their shining personalities. Although I enjoyed this romance the more I read it I truly expected more from Ms. Dailey especially being acquainted with her work. The main thing to remember is that you will like the story the Christmas background and the characters, you¿ll love the scenery and the vastness of the Arizona desert and you¿ll get to go back to the very start of Ms. Dailey¿s career and see where she came from. It¿s a journey worth taking and I¿m glad I did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2011

    I could not finish this book.

    This book was just plain awful. I was 70 pages in and I could not finish. The problem was that the main characters were so unlikable and not believable. The female protagonist was nothing but a lustful, spoiled child with no reason to like the object of her lust other than the fact that he was rugged and she felt he was attractive. The male protagonist was, to put it in the most simple terms, a jerk. I could not find anything redeemable about him. I do recommend Dailey's "Scrooge Wore Spurs" if you want a cute Christmas read. It was much better than this newest Christmas book. I'm not typically into reading romance but there is something about a Christmas themed book that I cannot pass up. However, I am going to be more cautious buying Christmas romance in the future. Lust and an unexplained instant attraction to a total and complete jerk is not my idea of romantic.

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    Posted December 19, 2011

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    Posted February 24, 2012

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    Posted December 25, 2011

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    Posted October 26, 2011

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    Posted December 18, 2011

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    Posted June 20, 2012

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    Posted October 8, 2011

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    Posted October 14, 2011

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    Posted December 18, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2012

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