Friday, June 1, 2012

33 INDIGO

~Chapter 33~
INDIGO

HE
"You look nice," she says, eyeing my dark wool overcoat approvingly as Domenic tucks me into the back seat.

I resist the urge to straighten my tie for a fourth time. I've upped my game for the big lunch today, eschewed my usual work khakis and white cotton button down for grey slacks and a blue dress shirt, topped off with a navy sports coat and finished with the Hugo Boss tie Riley gave me for Christmas. God bless Riley; I wouldn't know a Windsor knot from a Prince Albert without him.

"As do you," I respond, smirking at the jade scarf from her Secret Santa, poking out at the neckline beneath her camel coat. "Did you wear that to distract me?"

"No," she smiles brightly. "I wore it because I love it. It's festive, and I'm feeling festive."

Her smile draws my own. "Well, all righty then, Miss Swan."

"We're meeting Dad here at 1:10," she informs me as we enter the lobby together.

"Are you sure it's not 1:09?" I tease.

She whacks me playfully on my arm. "It's a twenty minute walk."

"Okay, Isabella. See you back here at 1:10 then."

"Don't be late," she warns merrily.

"I'm never late."

Her elevator arrives first today. She's poised in front of the doors before the loud, "Ding!", and just before she embarks, she shocks the hell out of me by turning around and planting a kiss on my lips.

I'm quite sure my mouth is hanging open, frozen in that same surprised expression, when she peeks back at me just as the doors are closing. Huh, either our relationship just took a giant step forward, or she really, really likes my outfit today. I'll have to remember to send Riley a text later. He'll get a kick out of that.

I hang my overcoat and jacket over the large plastic hook behind my chair and slide into my seat, clicking all the switches on and relaxing into the familiar whir and hum of all the machines at my disposal. Because I want to surprise Isabella and I was unable to tear myself away from her warm body in my bed last night, I will be pressed to make the arrangements from here, which isn't ideal. But I can pretty much count on an hour to myself before Frick and Frack arrive.

I check availability at my first choice hotel, and I learn that by some miracle, the suite I want is indeed available for a two night minimum stay. If we hustle tonight, we can make it out to Montauk in time to enjoy the room. Thrilled with my score, I send Isabella a quick message:

I- Can you book Domenic for a long car ride tonight and Sunday afternoon? E
Sure. What time tonight?
Packed and ready to go by 7?

There's a significant pause. And then: What am I wearing on this trip?
Very little ;)
Cute, but really…dressy? jeans?
One of each. Throw in some workout clothes, too. We're going shopping for the rest.
The rest? I'm intrigued.
Stop fishing and book the car, princess.
Yes, Sir!

Works for me. And now...for the restaurant. Sedgwick's on Main…and the phone number is…ah, there it is! It's the only restaurant on “the G'island” that doesn't pander to New Year's Eve. We can actually eat at a normal time and order off the menu. And they have a terrific wine list. Five minutes later, we have an 8:30 reservation and a romantic window table. No way would that happen "in season."

This weekend away is shaping up; the Master's fun bag is packed and ready to go. There's no conversation starter quite like the Submissive's Checklist. Christ, I've got to stop thinking about this. Nothing says, "I'm fucking your daughter's brains out" like a raging hard-on at 1:30 in the afternoon.

And right on cue, in walk my boner-killers: ball-buster boss and her oversized lap dog. Blech, I really do not like to imagine what goes on behind closed doors. And yet, there it is, the movie reel playing in my head. Damn, how I wish I could silence the imagery.

Rosalie, dressed in a black leather bustier and thigh-high boots, working Emmett over with a flogger;
Emmett servicing Rosalie for hours on end with his tongue while she watches 
Dancing With the Stars;
Emmett fully restrained on his back, being ridden cowgirl by an enthusiastic Rosalie

…And I'm nauseated.

"Dude, you are Decked. Out. What's the occasion?" Emmett ribs me.

"Wow, Emmett, I thought for sure Rosalie would have cued you in about 'Dress up Fridays.' That's harsh, man. You're really dragging down the department."

Emmett blanches and turns to his boss/domme/whatever. "Rosie?"

Rosalie rolls her eyes. "He's screwing with you, Em. He's probably trying to impress someone upstairs."

Emmett turns his hurt puppy dog eyes on me. I am utterly unapologetic. He points a finger just out of my reach and says, "Not cool."

she
Dad checks his watch again as I thrum my fingers nervously along my handbag. "It's only 1:08, he'll be here."

The nearest elevator car opens its doors and deposits Edward right in front of us. He gives me a shit-eating grin I hope my father didn't notice. What have you been up to, Edward Cullen?

"Isabella," he says in his very best Eddie Haskell voice, and takes my gloved hand in his. At the same time, he extends his right hand to my father. "Good to see you again, sir."

"You too, Edward. Thanks for coming. We should get going," says Mr. Business.

Dad's acting stiff, but Edward is, of course, unbothered. The three of us attempt to navigate the slushy sidewalks in a straight line across. Being the middle person, I get jostled and bounced around until finally I just start walking behind Edward. He looks back at me curiously, and I shrug and gesture back and forth between Edward and my dad, as in, "Talk amongst yourselves. I'm fine back here."

Edward reaches his outside hand back and waits until I grab it. He holds up his end of the conversation while he entertains me by squeezing my fingers and brushing across my knuckles with his thumb. I probably should feel left out or irritated, but I find myself feeling oddly content.

"Reservation for Swan," Charlie announces to the hostess.

"Swan, Swan…I'm sorry, I'm not seeing that…for 1:30?" she confirms, perusing her list.

"Oh," I pipe up, "I made it under Cullen."

The hostess returns to her chart while two sets of eyes swivel toward mine. Edward's dance merrily in amusement; Dad's reflect surprise. I don't even know why I did that; it just seemed natural. Weird.

Coats are shrugged off and seats are taken. I sit between them, worried that if I stay in the margins again, they'll completely forget about me in their zeal to get to know each other.

"So what plans do you and Mom have for New Year's Eve?" I ask.

"Oh, same ol' same ol'," Dad answers. "Ringing in with the bridge club; you know, the eight of us have celebrated the last…twenty-four New Years together. Wow! How about you?" His eyes are only on me; he's not assuming we've made plans together.

"Oh…um, we were just talking about that last night." Okay, could you please stop referring to spending nights with Edward.

"Actually," Edward explains calmly, "I'm whisking Isabella away."

"Really?" Eyebrows up again. "Where to?"

"It's a surprise," he answers, sending a sly wink my direction.

"'Zat right?" Dad challenges, looking back and forth between us.

"Don't worry," Edward soothes, "I'll have her chained to her desk Monday morning for you."

I feel the flush and I'm grateful for the waiter's intrusion right then. I'm going to have to start kicking Edward under the table pretty soon.

"What can I get you to drink, miss?" he asks.

"Grey Goose martini, light on the vermouth and garnish."

"So basically, vodka, straight up?" he laughs.

"You got it," I confirm, hearing Edward's deep chuckle on my right.

"Sir?" he asks Edward. Sir, Sir, Sir. "I'm good with ice water."

I turn to Edward and give him a WTF? face. Is he trying to make me look like a loser who drinks alone at lunch?" He smiles infuriatingly at me. And Dad is no better, with his Diet Coke with lime.

Whatever. This meeting definitely calls for a drink, and if they're too oblivious to figure that out, I'll be the only one suitably relaxed.

"Bella," Dad says, "I'm so pleased you picked this restaurant. This feels more like a celebration than a get-to-know-you lunch."

Thanks for laying it out there, Dad. "Well, you can never celebrate too much!" Huh? Where is that drink?

"So, Edward, how is that nasty virus?" Thank you, Dad. Put him on the spot for a while.

Edward nods confidently and takes off, "We've got it all under control. We'll be updating all the upper management workstations over the next week."

"Excellent. Glad to hear that." Then he turns to me and asks, "And how is the Warwick proposal coming along, Bella?"

"Good," I answer, greedily watching our server spill the martini shaker contents into the waiting chilled glass. "We had an excellent meeting yesterday and the concept is coming together nicely. We have another meeting with the client in two weeks."

"Well, cheers," Charlie toasts, raising his glass to the middle. We all follow suit. "To the New Year."

I make sure to clink both glasses before sipping down the cool refreshing liquid courage.

HE
"How's that steak, Edward?" Mr. Swan asks.

I rub my nearly full belly. "Delicious. It's a real treat to go out for a nice steak. Isabella and I have been eating in quite a bit." I shoot her a happy little smile as I chew on my Porterhouse. She narrows her eyes a bit, which only makes it more fun.

"Oh?" her father asks, fork stopping mid-air. "Don’t tell me Isabella's been cooking ?"

"Some," I reply nonchalantly, knowing for certain she's playing the same Best of… Dinners at Home reel in her head that I am. Let's see, there's Elf Night, Culinary Servitude Night, PJ's Night, and who could forget Sushi Night?

"Hunh." He looks back and forth between us with disbelief. Finally, he shakes his head and takes in a bite of swordfish.

"Yes, Dad. You can tell Mom I've actually been chopping vegetables this week and using major appliances," Isabella snarks.

"Okay, okay. Easy, Bellarella," he soothes, bringing a wide smile to my face. I love that I already knew this nickname.

Bella rolls her eyes and finishes off her martini.

"So, Edward, tell me what it's like to work in the IT Department at Swan Enterprises."

Oooh-kay. I don't suppose “a laugh a minute” would be the appropriate response here?

"Well, sir, it's a solid department. You've got some good people looking after your systems." There, that sounded noncommittal yet positive.

"Very diplomatic," he comments, not quite satisfied with my answer. "So, our new Department Head runs a tight ship?"

He's seemingly distracted by his baked potato, but I know Charles Swan is razor sharp. He is not a man to be underestimated.

"Sure. Yes, Rosalie's good." And though she annoys me in various ways on a personal level, I find I really have no complaint with her priorities.

He looks at me full-on and asks, "Anything you think we're missing the boat on?"

Wow. All right, not exactly where I thought our discussion would take us at this little get-to-know-you lunch, but I'm always game. "I have a couple ideas."

Mr. Swan grins and answers, "Let's hear."

Isabella clears her throat next to me. "Dad, come on. Is this a job interview or a lunch? I mean, give the guy a break here." Her father takes in her plea and turns his eyes back to me, waiting, measuring.

I cover Isabella's hand on the table between us. "No worries. I'm always happy to talk shop." With my other hand, I draw the napkin across my lips and make sure there's no ketchup lurking in a dark corner.

"All right, the first one's a no-brainer." His eyebrows lift. To have announced outright that we have a no-brainer that we haven't done before is pretty darn cocky, I realize one beat too late. Plowing on. "Intra-company chat. Take it off the table."

Now Mr. Swan wipes his mouth and sits up to take notice. "Really! Just axe the whole thing?"

I glimpse Isabella's broadening grin at the edge of my vision. "Over the last three months, your employees have averaged an astonishing five hours per week on Swan Chat. Multiply that by 850, and you've got yourself a huge productivity opportunity."

"Five hours a week, really? An hour a day? Wow. Huh, can we not assume part of that time is spent advancing company business?"

"Sir, with all due respect, there is no business conducted in a tiny little box at the bottom corner of the screen. Even when you're not actively chatting, it's distracting as all h—get-out. The real business takes place on your email server."

"But won't all the chat just migrate to the email system?"

"I don't think so. For some reason, people seem to have a healthier understanding that they're being monitored when they send an email. And it wouldn't hurt to add one of those intimidating messages at the bottom of the screen reminding them of the very fact."

"Are you telling me that people don't get that every word they type is scrutinized?"

"Sir," I pace myself and give Isabella's hand a little squeeze, "it would absolutely boggle your mind to see what some of your employees do on their work computers."

My shin takes a blow, and I do my best not to respond above the table. Beneath the cloth, however, I wrap my foot around Isabella's ankle and hold it captive until I can trust her to behave again. Which may not be until we leave this table.

"Yes," Mr. Swan replies, "I read your report. So…you said, 'first.’ What else should we be thinking about?"

I let go of Isabella's hand for this conversation; I need both hands when I become passionate. Surely, she'll understand that!

she
"I'd like to pull the IT group out of the shadows. We literally work in the basement of the building, and that's fine," he gestures quickly, one palm held out toward my father, staving off any defensive reaction he may have inadvertently caused. "But the risk is that we're viewed as a passive, reactive, function. And I believe we can add so much more value to the company."

"Tell me more," Dad says, intrigued. And I have to say, I'm pretty darn intrigued myself. I have some intuitive understanding that Edward's good at his job, but to see him all fired up, sharing his clearly well-considered ideas on the spot like this is nothing short of thrilling.

"Ideally, I'd like people to regard IT as not just machinery, but also, as the people behind the systems. We're a support function. Let us get more involved in supporting your needs. In order to do that, we need to spend more time hearing from people all across the organization chart. What are your challenges? How can we help you become more productive? Is it a matter of not providing the right technology? Or do we have a burning need for user education? I would posit that most people have no clue the tools at their disposal and they're either too intimidated or too lazy to try and find out."

"So you're saying that you, and possibly others, should be getting out and about the company? Taking stock, creating training programs…fascinating idea. Do you have any experience in this realm?"

"Yes, sir. Absolutely. I offer my services to a non-profit consulting group that goes into all kinds of agencies and does exactly as I've described."

He does? "You do??" I can't contain myself. Probably the vodka. I also can't contain my proud and adoring smile, and when my father catches it, he chuckles lightly.

"Yeah," Edward answers me, breaking away from his business presentation to enjoy my response.

"You didn't mention that," I half-accuse, remembering our conversation about hobbies and spare time activities. I feel the goofy smile frozen on my face, but I cannot seem to do a thing about it.

"I guess I still have a couple secrets," he says, adding in a wink.

"Imagine that…after all this time together?" Dad breaks in, with an amused air. "Would either of you like dessert?"

Dessert. Edward levels me with a lascivious look that could not be mistaken for innocent. "I'm stuffed," I beg off, forcing my eyes to Dad.

"I think I better pass as well," Edward answers, tapping his belly. "I've been overindulging lately."

Indeed you have, Mr. Cullen. My instinct is to give him another warning tap, but my foot is locked in place by the devil beside me.

Dad lifts his credit card to the server, who efficiently glides our way and slides him the leather folio with the check inside.

"Thank you for lunch, sir," Edward says.

"Yes, Dad, this was really nice."

My father smiles at the two of us and says, "It was truly a pleasure."

Either the temperature dropped while we were inside eating, or the alcohol has left me more vulnerable. 

Either way, my teeth chatter as we hit the sidewalk. Edward draws me under his arm and rubs away the cold as we walk. Friday late afternoon, holiday weekend stretched luxuriously ahead of us, the city streets are noticeably emptier than even two hours ago, allowing the three of us to walk companionably together.

Back inside the warm lobby of our building, Dad offers Edward his hand. "Edward, I'd like you to write up a proposal outlining your idea. Present it to Rosalie, and let's see how she responds first. How does that sound?"

Edward shakes his hand enthusiastically. "That sounds great, sir. Thank you."

"And I'll take care of the other situation myself," Dad adds, passing Edward a conspiratorial wink.

"That's excellent news. I know you won't be sorry, sir."

Dad pulls Edward toward him, placing his left hand onto Edward's shoulder. They could almost waltz. "Call me Charlie. Please."

Holy shitfires! Edward has won him over in record time. And how could I ever be surprised?

"Thank you, Charlie," Edward answers confidently. "I'd like that very much."

Jesus, the two of them are looking at each other like star-crossed lovers. "Hellooo…" I wave my hand between their faces. "Remember me over here?"

Both of them break into laughter and finally pay me some attention. Dad opens his arms for a hug and I allow myself to be swept into his familiar embrace, breathing in the cold wintery smell lingering on his overcoat. "Thanks for lunch, Dad."

"My pleasure, Bella. I'll talk to your mother about getting the two of you over to the house for dinner soon."

The fortress has been penetrated. My stupid eyes tear up; the cold weather always does that to me.

I slip out of Dad’s hug. "Happy New Year, Dad. I'll call on Sunday from …wherever we are." I glance at Edward, and again he's wearing that secretive grin. I'll find out exactly when he wants me to know, and not one moment before.

"Be safe," Dad bids, stepping toward the elevator bay. Edward waves once more before Dad is swallowed up by the elevator doors.

"Wow," I gush to the marvel that is my boyfriend. "Impressive display."

HE
I chuckle back, "And here I thought I had you at hello."

"Yeah, you pretty much did. But 'Charlie”—she stops to use air quotes“is usually a bit more reticent than that. Especially around my…"

"Your…?" Say it, Isabella. Every time you say it, we gain on it.

"Boyfriends." Good girl. If I didn't know better, I'd think she was jealous of his easy acceptance of me. But I know she's delighted that I've jumped this huge hurdle with room to spare.

"I told you, Isabella. I'm a pleaser."

"Yes, I recall…" she answers, a pink hue sliding over her face and sinking below her green scarf.

"What time can I collect you so we can go home and pack?"

"Oh," she tips her watch. "Sheesh, it's almost four already. Wanna give me an hour?"

"Sure. Be productive up there," I smirk, knowing the drink is still swirling in her system and she doesn't have all that much to do beyond organize herself for next week.

"Oh, I will," she promises. "Great job putting the kibosh on Swan Chat, by the way. That was masterful."

Slam dunk. "That's why they call me the Master, princess." And if things go according to my plan, that's exactly what she will be calling me before the ball drops on Times Square.

"Okay then," she turns, clearly flustered.

I grab her wrist and hold her in place. "One more thing, Isabella."

"Yes?" she asks warily, wisely sensing a shift.

"That little move at lunch…under the table?" My eyes blaze into hers, and I see the moment of recognition, the burst of pupil darkening her soft brown orbs, the tiny gasp of air, the instinct to pull back from me.

"Yes?" she asks in a tiny voice.

"You really should not have done that."

She's locked into place. My fingers around her wrist discern a quickened heartbeat, and her breathing seems to cease entirely.

The white up-arrow lights up behind her. "Your elevator's here," I announce, loosening my grip. 

"Meet you right here at five."

"Yes, s—" she starts, flustered. "Okay," she chooses, finally.

she
My hands are still shaking by the time I pass Jessica's workstation. "Everything okay, Miss Swan?"

"Yes, yes, I'm fine. Listen, there's no reason for you to stick around here for another hour. I'm just going to clean up some loose ends around here. Why don't you get a jump start on your holiday weekend?"

"Really?" she asks cautiously, afraid to get her hopes up.

"Yes. Go…enjoy. And Jessica?"

"Yes, ma'am?"

"Why don't you try and call me Bella starting on Monday."

Her jaw drops open and her eyebrows completely disappear into her bangs.

"Happy New Year, Jessica."

She gathers herself, "Same to you, Miss Swan."

Pulling my office door closed behind me, I settle in quickly and insert my memory stick into the laptop. Luckily, my chapter is largely written, and the remains of my martini spur me on to the finish line. As does Edward's undisguised threat downstairs. I don't know what kind of retaliation he might have in mind, but that look in his eyes …if "Charlie" had seen that look, he would never have handed over the keys to the castle so quickly.

My brazen words flash back at me from the screen. This time, the writing is different. I'm no longer writing an idle fantasy that only lives inside my head. The story is still fanciful, but at the end of the day, my Dark Prince is flesh and blood and very, very real. And I no longer have to imagine the glinty eyes, the commanding voice, the competent hands, or the all-knowing smirk. Every feature belongs to Edward, and I could not possibly have written a more appealing hero. Or is he the villain?

Sending the pages to my printer, I sit back in my chair and imagine how I will present this gift. Having absolutely no idea what he's got planned for the weekend certainly makes the visualization tougher. I'll have to wing it, biding my time until the opportunity presents itself. He's probably forgotten his idle offer to accept my belated Christmas gift for New Year's, but I certainly haven't. And I hope my humble offering will please him.

Tying the completed chapter with the strip of black velvet ribbon I purchased for this exact purpose, I can't help but remember the feel of the black velvet around my neck, his unique symbol of possession. A shudder of excitement shakes my body to think we have forty-eight uninterrupted hours together…somewhere.


I have never been so excited to ring in a New Year.

11 comments:

  1. About this:
    "That little move at lunch…under the table?" My eyes blaze into hers, and I see the moment of recognition, the burst of pupil darkening her soft brown orbs, the tiny gasp of air, the instinct to pull back from me.


    "Yes?" she asks in a tiny voice.


    "You really should not have done that."

    Why did Edward say that, in *that* way? They weren't Dom & sub at lunch; they were boyfriend & girlfriend with girlfriend's father.

    And this, after just having had that convo about, basically, "blurry lines" between Edward being boyfriend or Master. Yet he went and blurred the lines. No wonder Bella feels a little . . . out of sorts.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ahhh, perfect question: Why did Edward say that, in *that* way? They weren't Dom & sub at lunch; they were boyfriend & girlfriend with girlfriend's father.

      Answer: because he's human. Read on, McDuff!

      Delete
    2. Perfect, Ironic Twist. Take a look at chapter 34!
      xxx
      b

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  2. Good morning Born, I hope all is well with you today. What a great chapter. It FINALLY happened!!!!!! {she shocks the hell out of me by turning around and planting a kiss on my lips.

    I'm quite sure my mouth is hanging open, frozen in that same surprised expression, when she peeks back at me just as the doors are closing. Hunh, I muse, either our relationship just took a giant step forward, or she really, really likes my outfit today. I'll have to remember to send Riley a text later. He'll get a kick out of that.} It wasn't a tongue shoving experience but it was awesome all the same. Probably a good thing there was no tongue involved, I think Edward would have swallowed his. LMAO. Note to Edward......I don't think it was the clothes but I'm sure Riley would be thrilled if you told him that. LOL.

    You know this would make a nice outtake....{ Blech, I really do not like to imagine what goes on behind closed doors. And yet, there it is, the movie reel playing in my head. Damn, how I wish I could silence the imagery.

    Rosalie, dressed in a black leather bustier and thigh-high boots, working Emmett over with a flogger;
    Emmett servicing Rosalie for hours on end with his tongue while she watches Dancing With the Stars;
    Emmett fully restrained on his back, being ridden cowgirl by an enthusiastic Rosalie} ;) Well, maybe not the Dancing With the Stars thing. I love that show and if you did an outtake on that I would never be able to watch it the same way ever again. EEK.....

    Lunch was interesting. Between Bella's drinking {LOL}, Edward charming Charlie and Charlies outer shell cracking it seemed to have gone well.

    My only step away from the laptop for a moment happened at the end of the chapter. I'm not a sub or a dom but I have questions with this part of it......{ I grab her wrist and hold her in place. "One more thing, Isabella."

    "Yeah?" she asks warily, wisely sensing a shift.

    "That little move at lunch…under the table?" My eyes blaze into hers, and I see the moment of recognition, the burst of pupil darkening her soft brown orbs, the tiny gasp of air, the instinct to pull back from me.

    "Yes?" she asks in a tiny voice.

    "You really should not have done that."} I could see this behavior if their lunch was during "playtime" but it wasn't. Should Edward be afraid that he might not end up with the real Bella? I mean if I were Bella and what I had done during our Boyfriend/Girlfriend time could be used against me during our playtime I would be a whole lot of reserved. To me, that kind of sets both relationships up for failure. Isn't the point of Girlfriend/Boyfriend time to be completely open and honest with each other. What was Bella supposed to do, tell him to shut the fuck up. He was wording things on purpose to get a rise out of her. He knew he was making her feel uncomfortable. He should have expected some form of retaliation. I can't wait to see where you take this.

    I want to thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us. I hope you have a fabulous day today. Take care and peace. Theresa





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    Replies
    1. I never really have pictured doing an Em/R outtake with this one. Their characters do grow and change during the story, so you'll see more of them.

      Your concern at the end is well-founded. Good eye. Read on.
      xx

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  3. very interesting lunch meeting. No doubt that he would charm Charlie though ;)

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  4. Talk about mixed messages here.....is he going to retaliate, correct her, for her kick under the table? Not fair, but he said that it wasn't, didn't he? Didn't they just talk this one out? Let's see what happens going forward....

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  5. We always knew our boy was damn smart but to have Charlie so impressed so quickly is breathtakin'! Rosalie better watch out for her job LOL!

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    Replies
    1. Ah...luckily for Rose, the last thing Ed wants is an administrative job!

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