Who is James

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Acushla and James are kidnapped while out on a date. Why have they been abducted? And who is James really?

1 James

“Dinner was lovely,” Acushla laced her fingers with James' as they walked out in the cool night air.  James smiled down at her, pleased that she had enjoyed their date.  Not that it seemed difficult to please his girlfriend of two years, but her enthusiasm never ceased to amuse him.  They were walking back to his car, and as he opened the passenger door for her, he was hit from behind and fell to his knees.  He heard Acushla scream as the world turned to black.


2 Acushla

Acushla screamed when she saw James crumple next to the car.  The man behind him held a pipe over his head and Acushla felt a strong hand on her arm.  She tried to go to her boyfriend, but was forced backward by the unknown presence.  She looked up into a face that was equally as menacing as the one lording over her now unconscious boyfriend.  Panicking, she tried to pull away and met with staunch resistance and a glare from her captor.  She was dragged to an awaiting car and unceremoniously pushed into the backseat, where her new acquaintance pushed in next to her.  She finally found her voice, “wh-who are you??”

She was met with an appraising stare from the man next to her.  “If you don't know, you're better off,” his voice was deep and gravelly, sounding unused.  The trunk behind them slammed and a moment later the intimidating pipe-wielder climbed into the driver's seat.  He spared the man next to Acushla a glance, who nodded and then started the car and took off, leaving the smell of rubber behind.

Acushla tried to sink into her seat, staring out the window.  She thought maybe if she could pay attention and retain some information about their route, she could maybe escape mostly wished to disappear into the floor.

but maintained close enough proximity to her that she knew she would not be able to move without his knowledge and allowance.  They drove for nearly an hour, well after dark and came upon a large house, not quite a mansion with a long, circuitous driveway.  

a flight of stairs and deposited into a bedroom.  She heard the door lock behind her and sunk to the floor.  Her face buried in her hands, her knees pulled up to her chest, she finally cried.  She had no idea where James was, how he was doing, if he was even still alive.  She had heard the trunk of the car close, so she assumed, hoped, that he was still alive and somewhere in this house.  Who were these people?  What did they want with James?  What did they want with her?  Questions rolled around her head until she finally fell into an exhausted sleep.


Acushla was cold.  Her body was sore.  She woke up slowly and confused.  She sat up, realizing she was on the floor and finally remembered what had happened last night.  She heard the door unlock and quickly moved away and stared up at the man who entered.  He glanced around the room before realizing that she was sitting in front of him on the floor.  A look of surprise overtook him for a split second before he offered her his hand, and with a jerk of his head said, “let's go.”

Acushla ignored the offered hand and rose to her feet.  She would not touch these people any more than absolutely necessary.  She just wanted to survive whatever this was and find James.

The man shrugged, turned and walked out the door, sparing a glance over his shoulder to make sure that she was following.  They went down a flight of stairs, passed closed doors, a library, a kitchen, down another flight of stairs, and yet another flight of stairs.  Acushla was starting to look for catacombs and torches.  She wasn't far off, for when they reached the bottom of the fourth set of stairs, it began to look quite dungeon-esque.  Her conductor again looked behind at her and stopped.  Acushla glanced up at him, and then noticed why they had stopped.  Immediately ahead of them, in what looked to be a makeshift cell, his arms tied behind him sitting in a wooden chair, battered, bloody, and hunched over was James.  Briefly glancing at her captor as though for permission, but not waiting for any, she ran to James, falling to her knees in front of him and peering into his face.  “James!  James!  Are you okay?”

James cracked one eye opened and attempted to smirk at Acushla.  “I am as okay as I look, hun,” he said dryly.  Acushla spun around and glared at the man behind her.  “Why?  Why did you do this?  What do you want?” she demanded of him.  He stared back at her without changing his expression from a passive interest in the proceedings.  James responded first, “I have information that they want, baby.”  She spun back around and put her hands on his knees, quickly removing them when he winced.  “I'm so sorry,” she whispered, “what do they want?”

The voice came from behind her this time, “I've told you already that it's best if you don't know.”  Acushla did not acknowledge the answer, but looked at her tormented boyfriend who nodded at her.  “It's true,” James told her.  Acushla hung her head.  She didn't really want to know.  Not if it was dangerous.  Look at what happened to James, seemingly just for knowing… whatever he knew.  She had never pressed him for information about his job.  She assumed he worked for the government; he had a steady paycheck and was always sweet to her – what else could she want?  She sighed and rose to her feet.  James looked up at her and his eyes widened the slightest bit.  She looked down at him curiously until she felt the presence at her back.  That man had moved toward them.  He put his hand on her shoulder to lead her away.  She glanced back at James who had returned to his bowed head posture, looking defeated.  She wanted nothing more than to run to him and take him in her arms.  She wanted to comfort him, however she could, but she knew that would not be tolerated.  She was probably lucky to have seen him at all. She glanced up at her peculiar companion.  He certainly was odd.  He didn’t speak much, and she didn’t understand his motivations - either in allowing her to see James or in kidnapping both of them.


She was led back to the same room in silence.  When they arrived, she was escorted inside and the door was again locked behind her.  This time, she noticed a plate on a nearby table with cheese and fruit.  It was then that she realized that she was hungry. She contemplated not eating, but if they were going to kill her, poison did not seem like their style.  She ate all of it and then laid down on the bed, emotionally exhausted.

Upon waking up, the room was dark.  She must have slept all day.  She stood up and promptly walked into a table.  The plate that she had emptied earlier was gone and a new one was in its place.  Well, at least these kidnappers were feeding her, she thought sardonically.  Now, if only she could find the bathroom.  She finally found the wall, after abusing her shins on a few more pieces of furniture.  She felt around until she found a light switch.  She held her breath as she turned it on, thinking that it may not work.  It did and she breathed a sigh of relief and turned around to check out her cushy jail cell.

It was well furnished, with a large bed against one wall, next to it was the table that magically produced fruit platters, and there was an armchair in front of a fireplace on the wall opposite the locked door.

She was quite pleased, as pleased as a captive can be, to find another door on the last wall.  She had a very brief moment of hope that it may be a way of escape.  But no, it was a bathroom.  That was pretty exciting, too, considering.  It was a fairly nice bathroom, with a shower and what looked like a jacuzzi.  Weird.  She shrugged.  At least she could get clean.


Acushla came out of a very long, very hot shower, almost feeling human again.  She wrapped herself in possibly the softest towel she had ever used.  "What is this place?" She wondered out loud as she returned to the bedroom.

"You really like to ask questions that you shouldn't," was the raspy, unexpected response.  Acushla jumped back and nearly gasped aloud.  It was that guy again.  He had apparently entered the room while she was showering and stood leaning against the door.  She held the towel close to her and looked up at him.  "What??" She had no idea what he was talking about.  The dark-haired man was at least a foot taller than she was and seemed to always wear an amused look.  His grey eyes glanced over her, eyebrows raising.  "Good.  You found the shower," he commented.  She blushed and turned slightly away.  "What do you want?"  If his eyebrows could go any higher, they would have as he shrugged and turned to the doorway.  He left without another word and Acushla was left even more confused.

The days continued like this for more than a week.  She would be fed, not see anyone or learn anything.  Until the day that her unknown, but familiar captor opened the door to her room, gestured with his head to the hallway and led her back down into the bowels of the house.


James was looking possibly more beaten than previously.  Acushla gasped at the sight of him.  Covering her mouth, she cautiously moved toward him.  She reached out with her other hand to touch him.  Was he still alive?  She paused in front of him, her hand still outstretched.  She listened and heard his shallow breathing.  She went to her knees and looked up at him.  He looked terrible.  She looked back at the amused face who stood leaning in the doorway with tears in her eyes.  "Why did you bring me here?"

The amusement grew on his face as he answered, "to give you a choice."

"What choice??" She demanded, growing hysterical.  James moaned and tried to raise his head.  Acushla looked back to him and gently touched a strand of his matted blonde hair.

"He has given us all that he can, we believe," the man said.  "You can save him or he can die here."  He offered it as though he was asking if she wanted water or coffee.  Acushla stood up and stalked toward the pretentious man.  This guy hardly said anything to her, and when he did it was infuriating.  "What do you mean?" She demanded.

"You can stay here with me and he can be free," he grinned that damnable grin, "or you can leave and your lover can die here."  Acushla was at a loss.  "I-I don't understand," she finally managed.  He grabbed her arm and dragged her closer to him.  "It's quite simple," he began, "you can sleep with me for the foreseeable future, or he," his chin jerked to the bound man behind her, "can die.  If you choose to save him, you may answer me with a kiss.  Now."  Her mind reeled.  This person wanted to sleep with her in exchange for her boyfriend's life?  What sort of ransom demand was that?  He must be crazy.  She must be crazy.  She glanced back at James in his beaten, defeated form.  She closed her eyes.  Of course she would do whatever was necessary to save him.  She inhaled slowly and turned back to this man.  She looked up and had to stand on her tiptoes to reach him, but she pressed her lips to his.  His arm came around her waist and crushed her to him.

"No!!  Acushla!" James gasped and tried to throw himself at the doorway.  Acushla's captor broke off the kiss and nodded at a dark corner and the pipe-wielder from the night of their kidnapping appeared and cut James free, and dragged him back into the darkness with James struggling and gasping the entire way.


Acushla was still crushed against her captor's chest and looked up at him when the other two were out of sight.  "You'll keep your word?"  He looked down at her, "of course," was all the gravelly reply.  "And might I know your name?" She asked, trying to feign bravery.  He laughed, a deep sound and released his grip on her.

"Gabriel," he said and led her back to her room without another word.  Much to her surprise, he did not come in to make good on their "deal." She sat on the bed, still confused, and hoping that James would be able to recover and come save her from this bizarre situation that he had apparently placed her in.  She went to bed with a sigh and a prayer.


8 James

James was sore.  No, not sore, in agony.  The pain was fading into a distinct ache.  Unfortunately, that ache was everywhere.  He found himself lying down on hard dirt.  His eyes were closed and he slowly tried to open them.  The sun was bright.  Too bright.  He rolled over.  There was a road in front of him and he tried to raise himself up.  "Ugh," he moaned.  It hurt.  But he had to find a way back to get Acushla.  Why would she do something so stupid?  No, it wasn't her fault.  It was just like her to take the fall when he so clearly deserved it.  James knew that they wanted to kill him, but them having Acushla was torture.  He'd rather be dead than know she was with them.  What would they do with her?  She didn't know anything.  He'd made sure of that.  He would never tell her about any of his work.  This was all his fault.  He needed to get her back.

He staggered to his feet and started to follow the road in a direction which he hoped would lead into the city.  He would get help.  Help for himself, and help for his revenge.

He found the city with relative ease.  "Good.  Now to find Dante," James said to himself.  Dante would fix him physically.  Then, he could continue his crusade against Acushla's captors.  

He found Dante was in his offices.  Dante stood up in shock as soon as James stumbled in.

"My god, man, what happened to you?"  Dante was around his desk, arm slung around James, helping to support him and lead him to the back room.  

Dante was thorough and precise, scolding James when he tried to move.  James, for his part, was patient and took the opportunity to explain what had happened.

"So, apparently, the gang that I've been investigating has discovered my interest in them," he winced as Dante stitched above his eye.  "They caught me off guard after a date with Acushla.  They abducted both of us, right outside of my car!"  If he hadn't been in so much pain, James would have been furious.  But it had taken almost all his energy to get here and the rest was being spent on not passing out.

He continued in a lower voice, "they beat me for information, and when they were through, she saved my life by offering herself to them."  Dante did not pause in his work, nor did he offer comment.  When he had finished, he stood back and looked at James.

"So?" He asked simply.  James shrugged.  "I have to get her back.  She's too good for any of this."

Dante turned to wash his hands.  "True enough," he agreed.

After leaving Dante's office, James went to search for some backup.  He also had to figure out exactly where he had been, and consequently where his girlfriend was being held.  He would try to meet up with some of his less savory contacts at their known haunts.  He was sure to find some muscle-for-hire somewhere.


9 Gabriel

Gabriel couldn't sleep.  That wretched girl was on his mind again.  Why could he not stop thinking about her?  He hated seeing those bright green eyes filled with tears.  He could barely suppress the urge to take her in his arms and comfort her.  He had coerced a kiss from her and it was better than he had imagined.  Those soft lips were warm and tender.  What was wrong with him?  He groaned and rolled over for the fifty-fourth time.  He was never getting to sleep at this rate.  He decided to get a warm drink to calm his mind.

He left his room and started walking toward the kitchen when he saw Lucius at her door.  He stopped.  What was he doing?  He cleared his throat and Lucius stood up hastily, with a guilty look on his face.

"Lucius," he greeted his pseudo-partner.  Lucius was the one who got his hands dirty.  He enjoyed the more... physical aspect of their profession.  Gabriel was the brains.  Gabriel was tall, dark and muscular; while Lucius was lighter in all aspects and wiry.  Each could handle themselves, but had their own particular preference for how to get things done.  They complemented one another in that way and had worked together for a couple of years now.

Lucius took a step away from the door. "I know you said she was yours," he hesitated, "but I thought, maybe, if you're willing to share?"

Gabriel tamped down the sudden murderous flare that surged through him.  "No," he said simply, and stared at the other man until he had turned tail and hastily departed the corridor.  Gabriel released the breath he hadn't realized he was holding.  Great.  Now, I need to make sure that she isn't violated.  So much for putting her out of mind.  He knew Lucius tended toward certain proclivities.  Ones that tended to leave his lovers more like victims than partners.

He sighed as he eased open the door.  Her hair was spread out on the pillow and she looked almost content as she slept.  He could not allow her to be abused by Lucius.  That was why he had claimed her in the first place.  He hadn't wanted anyone else to get any ideas in that regard.  He was trying to protect her.  He pulled off his shirt and tossed it onto a nearby chair and climbed into the bed trying not to disturb her.  What did that filthy agent call her?  Acushla?  Acushla... Listening to her steady breathing and knowing she was safe lulled him to sleep faster than he would have wanted to admit.


10 Acushla

Acushla woke slowly to the feel of warm firmness behind her.  She smiled, eyes still closed and rolled over.  She put her arm over the muscled chest and nuzzled in.  "I had a terrible dream," she murmured.  One of his large hands stroked her hair and slowly moved down her back, coming to a stop in the small of her back.  She heard a slight moan and slowly opened her eyes.  Gasping, she jerked backward in the bed, almost falling off but for the hand that held her close to Gabriel.

He smirked at her.  "Who did you think it was?  Your boyfriend??" He mocked.  She glared up at him, refusing to speak.  Still grinning, he pulled her back to his chest.  "I enjoyed you cuddling up to me," he commented.  Acushla lay stiffly in his arms, not moving.  She had traded James' life for her freedom, but did that necessarily mean that she had to be compliant?  Probably.  But she really did not want to be near this man.  She wanted nothing to do with him.  She certainly did not understand what he could want with her.  He must be some sort of sadist: torturing men and sleeping with their girlfriends.  He disgusted her.

Gabriel sighed and relaxed his hold on her.  She was out of the bed in an instant, glaring down at him.  He sat up on his elbows still smiling at her.  "You're cute when you're angry," he taunted.  She whirled away from him and stomped to the bathroom, closing the door with more force than was strictly necessary.  She heard a laugh from the other room.

She made sure that she took a very long shower.  Hopefully, he would grow impatient waiting for her to emerge and find someone else to harass.  When she came out, Gabriel was lounging in an armchair.  He grinned when he saw her and stood up, offering her his hand.  "I thought we could take a walk together.  Get you out of this room for a bit," he suggested.  It was clear that he was not going to leave her alone and if she was honest with herself, things would be less painful, mentally and physically, if she didn't fight them quite so much.  Where was James?  She prayed he was alright and on his way to save her from this insanity.  She took Gabriel's hand, and for the first time, he seemed to smile a true smile that reached his eyes and did not mock her.  He closed his hand around hers; it was rough, but warm and gentle.


They strolled through the gardens.  There was a hedge maze that Acushla probably would have gotten lost in, had she been alone; a beautiful rose garden that only grew white roses; and an orchard that had apples, plums, and pears.  Gabriel kept up an ongoing dialogue in his rough voice about the grounds and did not seem to mind that she would not speak to him.  It was the most she had ever heard him speak.  She had no idea why he was behaving this way: almost gentlemanly, aside from being in her bed first thing in the morning.  He held onto her hand for most of the morning, taking her along a meandering route.

Around midmorning, they made their way to the kitchen.  There, for the first time since arriving, Acushla saw more than just the two men who had been present for her abduction.  There had to be twenty people in the gigantic kitchen, all seamlessly moving around one another while preparing the next meal or cleaning up after the most recent.  Gabriel led her to a small table in a corner when one of the servants noticed their presence.

"Sir!  We did not expect you here," the room quieted as soon as these words were spoken, as more recognized the unexpected guests.  Acushla tried to make herself as small as possible.  She did not want to inconvenience these people.  They seemed to be very busy without her intrusion.

Gabriel had no such compunctions.  "Do not worry yourself," he addressed the room, "we just came down for some brunch, if you don't mind."

"Of course, of course," the man replied, gesturing to a couple of nearby cooks.  They promptly placed fruits, bacon, breads, and juice on the table.  "Let me know if you require anything else," and he disappeared into the crowd, which seemed less noisy, but just as busy now.

Acushla finally had to ask, "Sir?"

Gabriel raised an eyebrow at her, looking up from his bagel.  "That is what he called me," he calmly stated.

"Who are you?" She demanded.  This was infuriating.  She was completely in the dark, trapped here with this man, in a virtual fortress, with servants, and her boyfriend was beaten nearly to death for some kind of information.  She could not stand to not know any longer.

He sighed and leaned back in his chair.  "How much do you know about your boyfriend's work?"  That wasn't the answer she was used to getting from him.  Was he actually going to answer her questions?  


12 James

James slammed his fist on the table, making the glasses jump.  He had been in half a dozen bars this morning, trying to find mercenaries or any form of help to get Acushla back.  He had finally found out where she was being kept: in The Castle, operated by Gabriel Conall.  James had been investigating Conall's operations, trying to find the source of his wealth and the reason behind the mysterious disappearances of his competitors.  Some of his methods may have been slightly unorthodox, but when dealing with those who don't walk the straight and narrow, one can't always be legitimate.

Unfortunately, no one wanted to try to take on Gabriel Conall without a small army and a contingency plan.  How was he going to get Acushla out without some serious backup?  How could he have gotten her mixed up in this?  If he hadn't already been thoroughly tortured by Conall's lackey, James would have beaten himself up.  Was this a power trip for Conall?  Taking an enemy's girl essentially hostage?  How very medieval.  Not that James would have expected anything but savagery from someone like him.

Slamming his fist on the table again, James stood up and stalked out of the bar.  He would go back to The Castle by himself.  He would die there, if that's what it took.  He would not be able to live with himself, knowing that she was trapped in there, being forced to do who-knows-what for that animal.


13 Acushla

Acushla stared at her hands clenched in her lap.  Everything that she had known about James was wrong.  He was not a good man, according to what Gabriel had told her.  Of course, Gabriel could be fabricating all of this information; but what would he gain from lying?  Her knuckles were turning white.  She realized she was holding her breath.  She released it with a loud sigh, unclenching her hands and rubbing them on her thighs.

Gabriel was still sitting back in his chair, watching her reaction.  He had destroyed her world and now he just stared at her.  She could not look at him.  She looked to the side, at her untouched food, anything but at the man in front of her.  She tried to hold back the tears.  She said nothing.  If she spoke, if she looked up, she would start crying.  She could not allow this person to see her cry.  She could not let him win the smallest victory over her.  She wanted to return to her room.  She wanted to be alone.  She needed to think.  There had to be some justification!  She would not believe that James was this horrible person that Gabriel made him out to be.  No, he was lying.  The man that she loved would not be capable of such heinous, unfeeling actions.

She took a deep breath, composing herself.  She had realized something and she clung to it.  “None of that explains who you are,” she said coldly, finally looking him in the eye.

He shrugged, “I’m his latest ‘project.’  He wants to take me down.”

“Because you’re so innocent?” she retorted.

He laughed, deep and low.  “No, but you are.”

She had no response to that.  She had been willfully ignorant for far too long.  She could admit that much.  When she got out of here, if she got out of here, she would have to confront James and find out the truth.  She would not be able to be with someone who was essentially a mercenary.  “I’d like to return to the room,” she requested quietly.  He nodded and rose from the table, offering her his hand.  She ignored it and he shrugged, turning to lead the way back to her room.


Once alone, Acushla sat on the bed, head in her hands, thinking of all she had been told.  Trying to justify it with what she knew.  She needed to talk to James.  She needed to get out of here!  Where was he?  Why hadn’t he come for her?

She heard noises coming from downstairs.  What was going on?  It sounded like things were being broken or thrown around.  She moved toward the door to try to hear what was happening when it was thrown open.

She jumped back when she saw who it was.  It wasn’t Gabriel or James.  It was the other man, the one who had knocked James unconscious.  The look on his face was even more terrifying than it had been that night.  He leered at her as he stalked toward her.  Acushla froze in place until he reached out to grab her arms.  She dodged around him and toward the door.  She nearly got through before he tripped her, grabbing her around the waist as she started to fall.

He laughed in triumph and pulled her close against him as she struggled to get away.  There was suddenly a loud bang in her ear and she was released from the controlling grasp.  She looked toward the doorway to see Gabriel with a gun raised at her.  She looked down and realized that he had shot her assailant.  Confusion was written across her features as she looked back at Gabriel.  He quickly crossed the space between them and grabbed her hand.  She did not resist this time, and allowed herself to be pulled toward the door.

They were downstairs before Acushla regained her senses.  “What is going on?” she demanded, still being dragged along by the hand.

“You’re leaving,” came the terse reply.

That’s when she saw it: James was standing in the middle of the foyer, looking around frantically.  He glanced up at her and the relief was palpable to both of them.  Gabriel released her hand and she ran to James, throwing herself at him.  He caught her and spun her around, showering her face with kisses.

“You need to leave now,” Gabriel spoke to James, who nodded, not releasing Acushla’s hand.  They turned and walked out the door to an awaiting car.  Acushla spared a glance behind her and saw Gabriel watch them leave.


The car ride back to the city was quiet.  Gabriel did not let go of Acushla’s hand for the entire ride.  She had so many questions that she wanted to ask, but she was afraid.  She just wanted to be here, in this moment.  Considering what could have happened while she was held hostage, she was remarkably unscathed.  She hadn’t been beaten or assaulted, just scared.  Very scared.

She glanced at James.  He looked much better than the last time she had seen him, there was a pink scar over his right eye, but it seemed to be healing well.  He had a fresh split lip - maybe from breaking into the house?  How did he get in?  Why did Gabriel let her go with him?  There were still so many questions that she didn’t have an answer to.  She didn’t want to ask, but she needed to know.  It had been made abundantly clear to her that she could no longer live in blissful ignorance.  She needed to be a willing participant or get out.

“What do you do?” the question was barely more than a whisper, but she felt him stiffen and knew he had heard.

“You’ve never asked me that before,” he said evenly.  “Did he try to turn you against me?”

There was no denying that there was truth in that question.  There was also no denying that James had not answered the question.  Acushla sat in silence.  He sighed, squeezing her hand gently before letting it go.  With both hands on the wheel, staring out the windshield, he began to speak.


James had been stopped in the parking garage for the past fifteen minutes waiting for a response.  Acushla was aghast.  Enough of what James had said agreed with what Gabriel had told her over brunch.  She did not know what to say.  She knew what she had to do.  She had to leave.  She could not stay with this sort of man.  How had her world crumbled in two short months?  So much had happened.  She covered her face with her hands and tried to remember how to breathe.

She opened the car door and began to walk toward the elevator that would bring her up to their apartment.  She would pack and she would leave.  It didn’t matter where she went, she just needed to not be involved with this lot any longer.


17 James

Acushla had left James in the car with no response.  He had told her everything.  What he did for a living, how he had been targeting and then targeted by Gabriel Conall, that he had been recruited shortly after high school.  Everything.  And she was leaving him.  This was precisely why he had never told her.  No, he hadn’t told her because she hadn’t asked.  It was easier to ignore the elephant in the room than to risk her leaving him.  He felt cold as he sat alone in the car.


18 Gabriel

Gabriel washed his hands after cleaning up the mess that had been left by James’ intrusion.  It hadn’t helped that Lucius had decided to take advantage of the distraction by forcing himself on Acushla.  Damn him.  He could have used his help in defending the house, instead, he had to kill him.  At least no one would miss him.  Gabriel chuckled darkly to himself.  He also no longer had to concern himself with what he would do with her.  She was gone.  He had armed her with the truth about her lover and released her.  He closed his eyes and leaned on the sink.  Now, if only he could get her out of his head.


Submitted: January 15, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Nichwn Lusus. All rights reserved.

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