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A Fountain Filled With Blood: A Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery

A Fountain Filled With Blood: A Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery

4.4 67
by Julia Spencer-Fleming

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In In the Bleak Midwinter, Julia Spencer-Fleming's Malice Domestic-winning first mystery, Reverend Clare Fergusson was quickly introduced to a more eventful life than she had expected after moving to the small town of Millers Kill in upstate New York. But the Episcopal priest and former Army Air Force chopper pilot proved to her flock--and to police chief


In In the Bleak Midwinter, Julia Spencer-Fleming's Malice Domestic-winning first mystery, Reverend Clare Fergusson was quickly introduced to a more eventful life than she had expected after moving to the small town of Millers Kill in upstate New York. But the Episcopal priest and former Army Air Force chopper pilot proved to her flock--and to police chief Russ Van Alstyne--that she could cope with the unexpected, even when it was as dire as murder. In this new adventure for the two ill-matched friends (who are gamely resisting something beyond friendship), evidence shows that a small town can hold just as much evil as the Wicked City.

The Chicago Tribune says "[Spencer-Fleming] pulls it off again" in A Fountain Filled With Blood.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The plot is complicated, and the ethical issues are even thornier. Wisely, Spencer-Fleming treats them with the same delicacy that she extends to Clare's forbidden love. — Marilyn Stasio
The Washington Post
This is the second installment of Spencer-Fleming's series featuring Episcopalian priest Clare Fergusson. She is a quietly gutsy former military chaplain and chopper pilot who, unmarried at 35 and not crazy about it, has an aching crush on the local police chief, Russ Van Alstyne. While committed to his marriage, the chief goes weak-kneed despite himself whenever he is around Fergusson. — Richard Lipez
Publishers Weekly
Spencer-Fleming's second cozy-cum-thriller to feature the Reverend Clare Fergusson, an ex-army helicopter pilot turned Anglican priest, is every bit as riveting as her first, In the Bleak Midwinter (2002). A series of gay bashings, the discovery of PCBs in a local elementary school playground and a brutal murder heat up the Adirondacks town of Millers Kill, N.Y., hotter than the July weather. Clare, rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, and the very much married police chief Russ Van Alstyne, who have spent the last six months avoiding each other in hopes of dispelling their mutual attraction, find themselves working together on a perilous murder investigation. With eloquent exposition and natural dialogue, the precisely constructed plot moves effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion. The poignant reflections of Clare and Russ as they examine their own hearts and struggle with their feelings never detract from the crime solving. Amid a host of memorable characters, Clare stands out, whether daring to drive a sports car instead of a safer four-wheel-drive vehicle or donning her vestments to perform the evening service of Compline in an empty church lit with candles. Not just fans of ecclesiastical mysteries will have reason to rejoice. Regional author tour. Agent, James Vines. (Apr. 7) Forecast: The jacket art, depicting a barbed wire fence and what look like fireworks against a dark sky, does little to convey the subject or theme, but the author's name should be recommendation enough for fans of In the Bleak Midwinter. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
One gay-bashing could be a prank, and two hardly constitute a pattern worth making a public announcement that may only encourage more of the same. But when a third victim is savagely killed, Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson ignores the wishes of Millers Kill (NY) police chief Russ Van Alstyne and leaks the connection to the press. Russ is furious, not just because he doesn’t want to lose control of his case to a woman he’s obviously drawn to (never mind his wife Linda, who remains oblivious at home), but because the late Bill Ingraham’s sexual orientation was perhaps his least controversial feature. His company, BWI Development, had signed a deal with local landowner Peggy Landry to bring a glitzy resort to this quiet corner of the Adirondacks. Environmentalists are up in arms at BWI’s likely impact on the region and the rumor that the Landry parcel is already contaminated with PCB. The case is a minefield for the chief, but it’s nothing compared to his deepening love/hate relation to Clare, who’s capable of segueing from a private sermon on chastity to getting drunk, flirting, spying without authorization on a suspect in the gay-bashing, and leaping out a window to be rescued by Russ, who’s constantly losing his temper, swearing, and muttering, "Scuse my French." Even more action, more plot twists, and more unconsummated romance than in Clare and Russ’s notable debut (In the Bleak Midwinter, 2002). As Russ demands of the former Army pilot who’s about to save his life: "What kind of priest are you anyway?" Agent: Jimmy Vines/Vines Agency
From the Publisher

"[Spencer-Fleming] pulls it off again." -Chicago Tribune

"Spencer-Fleming's second cozy-cum-thriller to feature the Reverend Clare Fergusson...is every bit as riveting as her first...with eloquent exposition and natural dialogue, the precisely constructed plot moves effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The plot is complicated, and the ethical issues are even thornier. Wisely, Spencer-Fleming treats them with the same delicacy she extends to Clare's forbidden love."-The New York Times

"Despite the brutal crimes, this is a quiet and civilized story just right for those who enjoy a modern take on the old-fashioned whodunit."-Rocky Mountain News

"Serious issues...add depth to the story. An exciting mountain rescue keeps the pages turning as the pace picks up at the end."-Booklist

"Even more action, more plot-twists, and more unconsummated romance than in Clare and Russ's notable debut."-Kirkus Reviews

Chicago Tribune

[Spencer-Fleming] pulls it off again.

Serious issues...add depth to the story. An exciting mountain rescue keeps the pages turning as the pace picks up at the end.
Rocky Mountain News

Despite the brutal crimes, this is a quiet and civilized story just right for those who enjoy a modern take on the old-fashioned whodunit.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
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Fergusson/Van Alstyne Mysteries , #2
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Read an Excerpt

A Fountain Filled with Blood

By Julia Spencer-Fleming

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2003 Julia Spencer-Fleming
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0906-8


The yahoos came by just after the dinner party broke up. A few young punks — three or four, picked out as streaks of white in the cab and bed of an unremarkable-looking pickup. Emil Dvorak was tucking a bottle of wine under his arm and reaching to shake his hosts' hands when he heard the horn haloowing down the Five Mile Road like a redneck hunting cry, and the truck flashed into view of the inn's floodlights.

"Faggots!" several voices screamed. "Burn in hell!" More obscene slurs were swallowed up in the night as the truck continued past. From their run in the back, the inn's dogs began barking in response, high-pitched and excited.

"Goddamn it," Ron Handler said.

"Did you see the license plate this time?" Stephen Obrowski asked.

His partner shook his head. "Too fast. Too dark."

"Has this happened before?" Emil shifted the bottle under his other arm. The inn's outdoor spotlight left him feeling suddenly exposed, his car brilliantly illuminated, his hosts' faces clearly visible, as his must have been. His hand, he noticed, was damp. "Have you reported it?"

"It started a couple of weeks ago," Steve said. "Probably kids let out of high school."

"Released from county jail, more likely," Ron said.

"We've told the police. The inn's on the random-patrol list now."

"Not that that helps," Ron said. "The cops have better things to do than catch gay-bashers out cruising for a good time. The only reason we got a few drive-bys in a patrol car is that the inn is bringing in the precious turista dollar."

"Tourism keeps Millers Kill afloat," Emil said, "but Chief Van Alstyne's a good man. He wouldn't tolerate that trash, no matter what business they were targeting."

"I better call the station and let them know we've been harassed again. Thank God our guests have already retired." Ron squeezed Emil's upper arm. "Thanks for coming. I'm sorry the evening had to end on such a sour note." He disappeared behind the inn's ornate double door.

Steve peered up the road. "Are you going to be okay getting back home? I don't like the idea of you all alone on the road with those thugs out there."

Emil spread his arms. "Look at me. I'm a middle-aged guy driving a Chrysler with M.D. plates. What could be more mainstream?" He dropped his hand on Steve's shoulder and shook him slightly. "I'll be fine. Anyone comes after me, I'll break his head open with this fine Chardonnay."

"Don't you dare. That bottle's worth more than you on the open market."

Emil laughed as they made their good-nights. Tucking the bottle under the passenger seat of his Le Baron convertible, he considered putting the top back up. He sighed. He knew he was getting old when a couple of drunken kids yelling out of the darkness could make him this nervous. To hell with them. It wasn't worth a twenty-minute struggle with the roof or missing fresh air blowing around him on a hot June night.

The high-Victorian architecture of the inn dwindled behind him as he drove east on Five Mile Road. He turned right onto Route 121, two country lanes bordered on one side by Millers Kill, the river that gave the town its name, and by dairy farms and cornfields on the other. In the dark of the new moon, the maples and sycamores lining the sides of the road were simply shades of gray on black, so the round outline of his headlights, picking out the violent green of the summer leaves, made him think of scuba diving in the Caribbean, black blinkers around his peripheral vision, gloom and color ahead.

Twin blurs of red and white darted into view, and for a second his mind saw coral fish. He blinked, and they resolved themselves into rear lights. Backing into the road, slewing sidewise. Christ! He slammed on his brakes and instinctively jerked the wheel to the right, knowing a heartbeat too late that was wrong, wrong, wrong as the car sawed around in a swooping tail-forward circle and crunched to a stop with a jolt that whipsawed Dvorak's head from the steering wheel to his seat.

The smell of the Chardonnay was everywhere, sickening in its excess. Steve would kill him for breaking that bottle. His ears rang. He drew a deep breath and caught it, stopped by the ache in his chest. Contusion from the shoulder restraint. He touched the back of his neck. Probably cervical strain, as well. Behind him, some awful hip-hop nonsong thumped over a gaggle of voices. He turned off the engine. Better go see if anyone needed any medical attention before he took down the driver's insurance and sued him into next week. The idiot.

A door thumped shut at the same time he heard the hard flat thwack of shoes or boots hitting the macadam. Glass crunched. "Look what we got!" A young man's voice, taut with excitement. "We caught us a faggot!" Another thump, more crunching, several whoops almost drowning out the stifling beat of the bass. Dvorak's hand froze on the door handle. The idiot. He was the idiot. He lunged for his cell phone, had the power on, and actually hit a nine and a one before the blow hit across his forearm, tumbling the phone from his grasp and making him gasp from the flaring pain. A long arm reached down to scoop the phone off the passenger seat.

There were hands on his jacket, tugging him sideways, and he watched as the cell phone arced through the edge of his headlights into the thick young corn. "Queerbait! You like to suck dick? You like little boys?" He twisted against the hands, groping for his car keys, his heart beating twice as fast as the sullen song, thinking he could still get out of this, still get away, until one of them hit him in the temple hard; supraorbital fracture, the part of him that could never stop being a doctor thought as his vision grayed and the key ring jingled out of reach.

In front of him, the headlights illuminated a swath of achingly green corn, cut off from the shoulder of the road by a sagging fence of barbed wire twisted around rough posts. His door was yanked open, and he wanted to think of Paul, to think of his children, but the only thing in his head was how the fence looked like the one on the cover of Time, like the one Matthew Shepard died on, and he was going to die now, too, and it was going to hurt more than anything.

"C'mere, faggot," one of them said as he was dragged from his seat. And the pain began.


"This stuff is going to kill us all!"

"Why are we having this meeting? This problem was supposed to have been resolved back in 'seventy-seven."

"I want to know if my grandchildren are safe!"

The mayor of Millers Kill squeezed the microphone base as if he could choke off the rising babel with one hand. "People, please. Please! Let's try to keep some sense of order here! I know it's hot and I know you're worried. Skiff and I will answer your questions the best we can. Meanwhile, sit down, raise your hand, and wait your turn." Jim Cameron glared at his constituents until the more excitable ones grudgingly lowered themselves back into their overly warm metal folding chairs.

The Reverend Clare Fergusson, priest of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, slid sideways an inch in her own chair. She had come to her first aldermen's meeting with the nursing director of the Millers Kill Infirmary, and though she was glad for the expert commentary, Paul Foubert was a good six four and close to three hundred pounds. Not only did he spread across his undersized chair onto hers but he also radiated heat. She pulled at her clerical collar in a useless attempt to loosen it. She was sitting next to a giant hot-water bottle on the last and stickiest night of June. In a meeting that had already gone on an hour longer than planned.

"Yes. The chair recognizes Everett Daniels."

A gangly, balding man stood up. "Back in 'seventy-six when they started making such a flap about PCBs, we were told we didn't have anything to worry about because we were upstream from the factories in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls where they used the stuff. Are you telling us it's now migrating up the Hudson and into Millers Kill?"

"They did find elevated levels of PCBs in our river, Everett. Obviously, water doesn't flow backward. But we are awful close to the core contamination sites, and our river joins up with the Hudson just a couple miles from where we're sitting. The DEP folks don't know yet if the stuff is coming into the Kill from the wetlands or groundwater or what."

A woman's voice cracked through the air. "Why don't you tell the truth? The stuff is coming from that damn storage dump we allowed in the quarry back in nineteen seventy! And that new resort development is bringing up the chemical and letting it run straight downhill into town land!"

"Mrs. Van Alstyne, I asked that everyone raise a hand to be recognized!"

Clare jerked in her seat. The only Van Alstyne she knew in town was Russ Van Alstyne, the chief of police. His wife, Linda, was supposed to be gorgeous. Clare made a futile swipe at the damp pieces of hair that had fallen out of her twist and craned her neck for a better view.

A woman in her early seventies stood, sturdy as a fireplug and so short, her tightly permed white hair barely cleared the heads of the people sitting around her. Clare tried to see around the people sitting near the woman. She couldn't see anyone who could be Linda Van Alstyne.

"I was saying it back in 'seventy and I'll say it now: Allowing that PCB dump was a big mistake. They said it was airtight and leakproof and they waved a chunk of money in front of the town council until the aldermen rolled over and said yes. Then they put the blasted thing in the old shale quarry, even though a high school geology teacher, which you were at the time, Jim Cameron, could have told them shale was a highly permeable rock!" She turned her head to address her neighbors. "That means it leaks!"

"I protested against it, too, Mrs. Van Alstyne," the mayor said.

Clare's mental fog cleared away. That wasn't Russ's wife. "It's his mother," she said under her breath. Paul Foubert looked at her curiously. She felt her cheeks grow warmer.

"The state cleaned up that site in 'seventy-nine," Mayor Cameron continued. "Last tests show traces of PCB in the quarry, but they're at acceptable levels."

"Of course they are! The blasted stuff leaked away into the bedrock. Now along comes BWI Development and gives us the same song and dance, this time promising lots of money from the tourists and lots of jobs, and what does the Planning Board do? Roll over and hand 'em a permit to start plowing and blasting over fifty acres of Landry property. It's been three months they've been working, and suddenly we find PCBs in the Dewitt Elementary playground. This stuff causes cancer, and it's in our playground!"

"Can we just stop the hysterics and stick to the facts!" An angular blond woman stood near the front row. In contrast to the Wednesday-night casual dress of the rest of the crowd, her suit was so sharply cut, it looked bulletproof. "Before we ever started construction, we had to get a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. It took them two years to grant it. Two years! They tested the quarry. They tested the water. They tested the damn trees, for all I know. The PCBs are at acceptable levels at the resort site. Acceptable. Levels. There may be more of the stuff in the river, but there's no reason to act as if my property is some sort of Love Canal!"

"Damn it, Peggy, will you just wait your turn!"

She rounded on the mayor. "I came here tonight because I was told there was a motion to suspend construction due to the so-called PCB crisis." She pointed toward the aldermen's table. "My property was certified by the DEP. I have provided you with their environmental- impact statements, which, if you bother to read them, clearly say the development is within parameters approved by New York State. I have also provided you with copies of our zoning approval and our construction permits. Which documents you, gentlemen, issued only six months ago!"

The mayor turned away from the microphone and leaned over the wide wooden table. The four aldermen shoved in closer to hear whatever it was he was saying. They were shuffling papers like blackjack dealers. Clare nudged Paul. "Who's the woman?" she whispered.

"Peggy Landry. She owns a huge chunk of land northwest of the town. She's been trying to develop it for years, but she never had the wherewithal to do anything more than plow a few roads in. The only money she made off it came from paintball groups and back-to-nature nuts. You know, people who scoff at amenities like toilets, showers, or cleared land for pitching tents." He rolled his eyes. "She got a group out of Baltimore interested in the parcel a year or so ago. Before you came. They do spas, luxury resorts, that sort of thing. It was big news at the time because of the prospect of jobs for the town, of course. I didn't realize they had already —"

Jim Cameron straightened up. "Application papers of Landry Properties, Inc., and BWI Development, a limited partnership," he read from a sheaf of papers in his hand. "Okay, Peggy, the town isn't going to suspend your construction permits." Several in the crowd yelled angrily at this. Several others cheered. The mayor frowned. "Keep it down! Look, our lawyer tells us we don't have the authority to stop properly permitted projects unless the state rules they are, in fact, violating DEP standards."

"What about the possible release of more contaminants by the development?" Mrs. Van Alstyne asked. "How much of that poison is stored in the rock, waiting to be let out when they start blasting? Anything they let loose is going to wash straight down the mountain and into the town and the river!"

"Who's going to pay for the cleanup?" someone asked from the crowd. "Seems like the Landrys will be making a pretty penny and we'll be left holding the bill."

Jim Cameron held up his hands. "People, if we can't stick to the rules of order, I'm calling this whole meeting off!"

A man stood up next to Peggy Landry, who was glaring at Mrs. Van Alstyne with enough venom to have caused a lesser woman to collapse back into her seat. "Mr. Mayor? May I say a few words?"

The mayor looked pathetically grateful that someone was recognizing Robert's Rules. "Yes. The chair recognizes ..."

"Bill Ingraham. BWI Development." Cameron gestured to him to continue. Ingraham was thickly set, of middle height and middle years, with the sunburnt skin of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors. He looked more like a plumbing contractor than the developer of a luxury spa to Clare's eye, but then, she had never really met any luxury-spa developers. "My partner and I — stand up, John, and let the folks here get a look at you." A smartly dressed corporate type stood, waved unenthusiastically, and vanished back into his seat. "John and I are here to create a new resort, the best cross between the old Adirondack mountain retreats and an up-to-the-minute health spa. We want to build this because we think it'll make us a whole lot of money." There was a snort of laughter, quickly stifled, from the crowd. "I also think it'll make your town a whole lot of money, because we see this as a destination resort, not a place to stay overnight while your visitor heads over to Saratoga during the day. This is gonna mean money spent in your town and jobs for people who live here, year-round jobs, because this is gonna be a year-round resort." There was a scattering of applause across the town hall. "John and I are putting our money where our mouth is in more ways than one. We're sponsoring the Fourth of July road race this year, and we've got plans for a ski meet at one of the local mountains this winter. Eventually, we want to support a special event in each of the four seasons." He rubbed his hands together theatrically. "Give those tourists a little incentive to get into town and loosen their purse strings."


Excerpted from A Fountain Filled with Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming. Copyright © 2003 Julia Spencer-Fleming. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.

Meet the Author

Julia Spencer-Fleming's first book, In the Bleak Midwinter, won the 2001 St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Contest for Best First Traditional Mystery. Born on Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Julia spent most of her childhood on the move as an Army brat. She studied acting and history at Ithaca College, and received her JD at the University of Maine School of Law. She lives in a 180-year-old farmhouse outside of Portland, Maine, with her husband, three children, and beloved big dog.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING is an Agatha, Anthony, Barry, Dilys, Gumshoe and Macavity Award winner. Her books have been shortlisted for the Edgar, and Romantic Times RC awards. Julia lives in southern Maine with her husband and three children.

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Fountain Filled with Blood (Clare Fergusson Series #2) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a good second installment in a series featuring a reverend and police chief. The crimes being investigated in this case are a series of hate crimes. There is certainly a lot of action in the book. It was a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed but not as good as the previous book in series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
acorley84 More than 1 year ago
I don't know what it is about this series, but I don't have the desire to continue with the stories, but seem to have this incessant desire to read "just one more" to see what develops between the characters.  As was the same with the first story, I felt like it took way to long to get to the heart of the story. I think that once the story finally takes off, that it is good, but that's just not enough to make me love a story. It seems that the author really can write exciting events, but that seems to be it. It seems like she just has a hard time executing it all together.  As for the characters, I find myself dying to know what happens with them, even though I don't care for the innuendo's that are taking place. First of all, how strange is it that an Episcopal Priest is a female who is a former Army helicopter pilot that regularly drinks and drives a Shelby Mustand, but most importantly finds herself more openly attracted to a married man than she should? I myself, don't agree with infidelity, so it's hard to accept the budding relationship between Clair and Russ. I also just find Claire's character unbelievable. I don't have such a problem with Russ as Chief of Police and it's obvious that the attractions are mutual between Russ and Claire but just don't understand it, or my desire to see where it goes. After reading the first book in the series, I said I would read the second and then decide if I would continue from there! After reading this  one I immediately decided that I was not going to continue, however, after reading the description of the third book, I'm going to give this series one last chance!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good writing but the story dragged a bit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LisasGeode More than 1 year ago
Joining Clare and Russ in Miller’s Kill is a reliable pleasure. This is the second of the series, but the fourth or so that I’ve read. Early on there are three assaults, all on men, all of whom are gay. This may or may not connect the attacks. One of those assaulted has professional connections with Russ, one, professional connections to Clare’s church functions, and one is a big player in the new development beginning in the area. The development may or may not have environmental implications. It has been cleared, but new allegations arise. Millers Kill being a small town, the incidents stand out and together. Personal tension between married Russ, the police chief, and single Clare, the Presbyterian priest, continue but at a lower degree than some of the other books. Their mutual appreciation remains steady in spite of a bump or two, and their interactions and relationship shine nicely throughout the book and series. Also shining nicely is how their different views of life and approaches to addressing the assaults counter one another in realistic ways. The secondary characters aren’t extremely deep, but fill the story well, particularly Russ’ feisty hippy-idealed mother. Like the other books in the series, this one is a good read and Spencer-Flemings’ treatment, pace and plot are in sure hands. I will be ready for another dose of Clare and Russ soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I iike the twists and turns and suspense. It is well written and a fast read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a multifaceted fun series.
teachNM More than 1 year ago
I love the characters and suspense!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LoveToReadJFE More than 1 year ago
This is without a doubt one of the greatest series I have ever read. Lots of mystery, suspense, and action occurring around characters that are so wonderfully developed you almost expect them to walk in the door any moment. A word of caution, though . . . this is a HIGHLY addictive series --- once you get started, you may find it difficult to stop until you've read all the books! This is a great series for book clubs and discussion groups. Suggest you start with the first book in the series, "In The Bleak Midwinter" and read all in order. You won't be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1unicorn2many More than 1 year ago
Love the and loved the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book #2 doesn't disappoint! Love the developing relationship between the reverend and the police chief. Great mystery and characters. Looking forward to #3.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
knotdr More than 1 year ago
I live in the area the mysteries take place in so that drew me in but the interplay between Russ and Clare makes me keep coming back.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago