The Glamorous Life
by Nicole & Rob
Standard Disclaimer: This story is a complete
work of fiction. The authors do not know any of the celebrities mentioned in
this story, their sexual preferences, or any other such things that are quite
frankly no one's business but their own. This story may contain descriptions
of sex between consenting adults of both genders, so if you are under the age
of eighteen, depictions of such acts are illegal in your area or are contrary
to your beliefs, this is as far as you go. Don't say you weren't warned. Now,
with that said, on with the show!
Chapter Two: The Game of Love
After Cassidy had fed and watered Taylor's cats and dog, she straightened
up the mess he'd managed to leave his house in, made sure to lock the
place up, and made her way to her Black Mercedes for the thirty minute drive
back to her own house in Beverly Hills. As she drove, she couldn't help
but to agonize over this date she'd effectively forced Taylor to go on,
wondering how things were going for her friend. She almost pulled over to the
side of the road and called, but managed to contain herself at the last moment,
certain that Taylor would have called her already himself if things were not
going well. Cassidy prayed silently that this wasn't just some rich whack
job fan who had somehow managed to slip through the more stringent security
and fan mail filtering system that the studio and the network had insisted
on since Orlando had taken it upon himself to out Taylor in front of a live
audience. In spite of Taylor's words, she couldn't help but to
feel at least partly responsible for what had happened.
She remembered how Taylor had fretted over how viewers would react to him
now that they knew he was homosexual, but in the end all his fears had been
mostly unfounded. Granted there had been the usual hateful diatribes from the "all
fags must die" crowd whenever she or Taylor made a public appearance,
with some even threatening to boycott the show unless Taylor was fired, but
the outpouring of love and support from fan and non-fan alike had both startled
and humbled most, if not all, of the cast and crew. The show had even climbed
from number three to number one in the ratings, overtaking the all-powerful Young & the
Restless as the most popular show in the daytime lineup, much to the surprise
and amazement of studio and network execs alike, and to the never-ending amusement
of Cassidy and Taylor, whom the studio had insisted continue to be seen together
as often as possible, giving further credence to the never-ending round of
gossip that Orlando outing Taylor had been nothing more than a ploy to get
fans to watch.
As she drove, Cassidy wondered for the millionth time since that night how
her bastard of an ex had managed to finagle his way into being a presenter,
let alone for the Best Actress category. Everyone involved in the production
of the show would have known better than to put Orlando Bloom down as the presenter
for that category given the acrimonious nature of their divorce. Cassidy had
her suspicions, but until she had real proof, she would keep said suspicions
to herself. She pulled up to a busy intersection, her mind wandering as she
tried to come up with anyone who might want to hurt Taylor like that, but again
she came up empty-handed. Sure, daytime could be a cutthroat industry, with
the constant jockeying for favor and leveraged plays for top billing that were
the norm for all aspects of Hollywood life, but Cassidy was friends with most,
if not all, of her former co-stars, many of whom had come out vocally to support
There were the select few, however, who had tried to attack her, be it professionally
or personally, both in person and through the media, over the years, but those
unfortunate souls had learned quickly that Cassidy was not a woman to be trifled
with. One particularly vocal foe had even gone so far as to try to threaten
Cassidy's four-year-old daughter Abigail, at which point she was quickly
made to understand how Cass had earned the nickname "The Pit Bull of
Daytime." Cassidy had made it her personal mission in life to destroy
the woman's creditability in the industry, not stopping until the woman
was unable to get a job anywhere on any of the major shows on daytime television,
and even some of the shows in the primetime lineup. After that, Cassidy had
quickly become known as the one person in daytime that you did not cross if
you hoped to continue to work in television.
She looked up in surprise as the people in the car next to her began to scream
her name, blowing their horn and waving furiously, obviously trying to get
her attention. This was the one aspect of celebrity that Cassidy could never
get used to, this constantly having to be on her best behavior for fear that
one bad word from one disgruntled fan would ruin the reputation that she had
fought so hard to build over the past seven years. The fans could be wonderful,
as evidenced when she was pregnant with Abby. Several of her fans had crocheted
beautiful baby gifts, many of which Cassidy had kept for Abby to use when she
had her own children, but there were other times when she asked herself why
she even did this to herself day after day. She'd tolerated a lot during
her meteoric rise to the top of the daytime mountain, mostly at the hands of
critics who had labeled her "a flash in the pan, two bit actress who
couldn't hope to equal the success of Susan Lucci and Erika Slezak," but
she had simply brushed the haters off, and in her own inestimable way, gone
on to prove each and every one of them wrong. She had worked tirelessly to
hone her craft, making herself a household name in the process, and garnering
herself five Emmy nominations, three of which she'd won.
And that's two more than Miss Lucci has, baby! Cassidy thought
cattily as she smiled at the other cars occupants, of which all happened to
The professional attacks were one thing, and she could take those for what
they were: jealousy on behalf of insecure older divas at someone perceived
as a threat to their status, but the personal attacks had become something
completely different. From the moment news of her relationship with Orlando
had become the talk of Tinseltown, the press had taken great pleasure in raking
her over the coals, her every word and action scrutinized, her every decision
second-guessed. It had quickly gotten to the point where she had threatened
to break up with Orlando, who had cried and begged her to reconsider, and as
much as not having him in her life anymore would have killed her, she'd
reached a point where she just could not handle the pressure anymore. When
the press had found out that she was pregnant, they had taken to stalking her
when she went to the doctor, reporting on her every move with gleeful maliciousness,
especially once she had begun to show. The catty comments about her weight
gain had triggered a mild bout of anorexia, which in turn had made Orlando
so furious that he had called a press conference, begging everyone to allow
his wife to have their baby in peace, but to no avail.
The pictures of her when she had been released from the hospital, looking
tired and sick from having had an emergency cesarean section after one of the
paparazzi, in his zeal to get a photo of her while she was out shopping, had
run her car into a light pole on Santa Monica Boulevard, had turned out to
be the breaking point, even for the fans. They had demanded that the tabloids
leave Cassidy alone, even boycotting magazines like Star and The
Enquirer to get their point across. It had worked for a while, as the press
had left her pretty much alone until Abby had turned two, but then the feeding
frenzy began anew, her every move again being catalogued and critiqued. God
forbid she should ever come out of the house looking anything less than spectacular—every
hair in place, makeup flawless. Those seemed to be the pictures that everyone
wanted to see, her looking less than her best. The hellcat in her wanted to
scratch the eyes out of every paparazzi she came in contact with, but she had
learned her lesson quickly after the one and only time she had allowed her
temper to run away unchecked resulted in her being fired, for breach of the
ethics clause in her contract no less, from the top rated daytime series where
she had just been moved up to front burner status. Since then, Cassidy had
learned to swallow every biting comment and backhanded compliment with a smile
and a dismissive wave. Swallowing her irritation now, she waved and blew kisses
at the men in the car next to her, peeling away with screeching tires as soon
as the light changed.
When she finally arrived at the luxurious seven-bedroom house that had been
Orlando's "gift" to her in the divorce settlement, Cassidy
groaned when she saw that his car was in its usual spot in front of the garage.
He wasn't scheduled to see Abby until the following Friday, and since
today was just Wednesday, she automatically went on high alert. Ever since
the debacle at the Emmys, Orlando had become persona non grata in her life,
and Cassidy had gone out of her way to avoid any kind of confrontation with
him, minus the occasional telephoned screaming match that had become par for
the course over the past few months. She'd even gone so far as to not
be there when he showed up on Fridays to take their daughter for his regularly
scheduled visitation to cut down on the amount of residual anger she harbored
for his little Emmy stunt, but that didn't meant that the resentment
she'd felt toward him for almost ruining Taylor's career, and her
friendship with him, hadn't been festering inside her.
She pulled into own her parking spot, checking her emotions before she got
out to face whatever Orlando might have in store for her. Abby was home and
not feeling well, and she knew that, no matter what, she wouldn't allow
her own contentious feelings towards Orlando ruin his relationship with their
only child. She looked into the rearview mirror, smiling at the distinctive
emerald green eyes with their frame of sooty colored lashes that had become
Orlando had said time and time again that her eyes were what he'd fallen
in love with first, followed by her keen wit, intelligence, and her self assured
smile. She had always been described as "exotic;" her Latin heritage
evident in her honey-brown complexion and multifaceted brown hair, but her
eyes, with their distinctive jade coloring, thick dark lashes and slightly
tilted almond shape, had come courtesy of her Caucasian father. Orlando told
her that combined, all of these traits gave her the kind of enigmatic sensuality
that most men found hard to resist, and Cassidy had learned to play to that
early in her career, starting in her days as a bit player on a now defunct
soap. There, she had quickly been moved to front burner status because of what
everyone believed to be her talent and tenaciousness, but in reality it was
because the producers of that show had realized what a real treasure they had
in the young woman with the catlike green eyes. It was those very same traits
that found her now, some eleven years since her first appearance on that soap,
heralded by some as one of the best actresses on daytime.
I wonder what my father would think of his little girl now? She thought
with a sad smile of the father who had passed away when she was barely old
enough to remember him. The loss of her father, and the resultant void in her
life, had made her almost fanatical in her desire to ensure that Orlando and
Abby had a good relationship, no matter how rancorous Cassidy's own feelings
remained towards him. Thoughts of Orlando flooded her mind, and Cassidy's
mind was drawn back in time to the day, almost six years ago now, that she
had met the young up and coming actor who had quickly stolen her heart, and
whom she still carried a torch for.
Cassidy and Taylor had gone with several of their cast mates to the 500 th
episode party for their series, which had taken the world of daytime television
by storm. Even now, over two years since its premiere, Temptations still
had critics and fans alike raving, and it seemed most of the women in the country
had fallen head over heels in love with Taylor's chiseled good looks,
boy next door charm, and rugged sexuality from day one. The men on the other
hand, fantasized about the naughty, and not so naughty, things they would do
to Cassidy to make her smile the smile that sent many a male's heart
a-racing, and had those men scrambling to do her bidding, both in real life
and on screen.
The dynamics and chemistry between Cassidy and Taylor also had a lot to do
with the enormous popularity of the show. The sexual tension between their
characters sent pulses racing, and even though they were portraying brother
and sister, albeit by adoption, that had done nothing to stop the rampant flirting
that had begun between their characters onscreen, and which turned the thermometer
up a notch every time the two of them entered the room. That sizzle had been
apparent from the first day of shooting—their personalities meshing perfectly.
Cassidy became the loving, if somewhat bossy, older sister, and Taylor assumed
the role of rabid protector of Cassidy, and later Abby, and soon the two of
them were joined at the hip, which had led to endless speculation about the
true nature of their friendship. Cassidy and Taylor were both uncharacteristically
mum on the subject, preferring to allow people to think whatever they wanted,
and as neither was willing to divulge the true nature of their relationship,
this only succeeded in adding fuel to the fire.
Of course, all of this was a moot point since Cassidy had been under no illusions
about Taylor's preference of partners since the night when they had been
working late at the studio on a love scene between Taylor's character
Dylan and his wife Rebecca, for whom Cassidy was acting as a stand-in. Taylor
had been having a difficult time concentrating all evening, something that
hadn't escaped Cassidy's attention as she'd fast reached
the point where she was threatening to slug him if he didn't take his
head out of his ass and hit his marks. He'd glared at her in anger, frustration
leading him to snap angrily, "Well I'm sorry Miss Saunders,
but you don't have the right equipment to get me off!" before storming
off in a huff, leaving Cassidy to stare after him with her secret suspicion
now confirmed. She had gone in search of him, and the two of them had talked
long into the night, after which Taylor made Cassidy swear not to breathe a
word of his secret to another living soul. She had promised, but not before
she had given him something to think about first.
"You need to get your fine ass out of the closet Taylor!" she
snapped, smiling to take the sting out of her words. "Because sooner
or later, something or someone is gonna come along that's going to drag
you out kicking and screaming regardless of whether you want to or not. At
least this way it would be on your own terms."
"I will soon... just not yet," was his answer every single
time Cassidy had tried to get him to come out, and things had gone on that
way for several years. Taylor dated whenever he could, and he was always careful
not to get caught with his man of the moment. The night Cassidy met Orlando,
Taylor was still firmly in the closet, and had shown up with one of their costars,
Christina Darrien, on his arm.
The cream of the crop of daytime television had shown up to congratulate
Cassidy on her latest endeavor, so she had definitely not been lacking for
male attention for the majority of the evening. The fact that she attended
these functions with Taylor often worked to her advantage, since he would disappear
as soon as they got through the doors and would not resurface again until it
was time to leave. At times it seemed she could barely turn around before another
of her former co-stars, each hoping to attract and hold her attention, had
come up to offer their congratulations. Most of the time the ease with which
she could get her way with men amused Cassidy, a fact that was usually never
more apparent than at industry parties, but tonight it just reinforced for
her the vapid and shallow nature of life in the tiny segment of American pop
culture known as soap operas.
Cassidy had been on her way to the bar, having used her empty glass as an
excuse to disentangle herself from the latest of her admirers, or rather potential
suitors—one of the older leading men who had a penchant for indulging
just a little too much in the plethora of liquid refreshments available at
these parties—when she felt someone watching her. She stopped where she
stood, smiling absently at this and that person who came up to greet her, eyes
scanning the crowd. Orlando stood off to one side, holding a martini in one
hand and a small plate of cocktail shrimp in the other, watching her progress
as he tried to extricate himself as painlessly as possible from the clutches
of a notoriously outspoken and equally outlandish actress from one of the primetime
shows, who also had a thing for younger men. He deftly excused himself, smiling
politely but declining when she propositioned him outright. He made his way
to where Cassidy stood still surveying the crowd, slipping up behind her as
she sipped her drink.
"I do so hope you're looking for me," he
said softly, smiling at her. Cassidy had blushed to the roots of her hair,
but being the artfully seductive temptress that she was, decided to play dumb
and see what happened.
"Well hello...but I have no idea what you're
talking about," she said coyly, smiling at the man with the beautiful
hazel eyes and dark brown hair, her fingers itching to run through the mass
of unruly curls. His smile spread, revealing dimples in both of his cheeks.
"I think you do," he stated, offering her a hand. "My name
is Orlando Bloom, and you are the famous, or infamous depending on whom you
ask, Cassidy Saunders. No need to smile at me beautiful lady. You had me from
Cassidy had almost spilled her drink because of that comment, which had gone
far towards piquing her interest in him, but she'd also found herself
laughing at his fairly accurate summing up of her status among her soap opera
acting peers. They had spent the rest of the evening enjoying themselves, laughing
and chatting as they got to know each other better. When Orlando had asked
her out for the following weekend, she had accepted, but only with the stipulation
that her friend Taylor should be allowed to chaperone. Orlando had agreed,
rather amused at the prospect of having to be chaperoned at this late stage
of his life, and the date had gone off without a hitch, even if Taylor had
seemed standoffish with Orlando at first. Looking back, Cassidy wondered if
maybe her friend had seen something that she herself hadn't wanted to
She and Orlando had dated for about nine months before marrying in an intimate
ceremony in the backyard of the house she still lived in, attended only by
a handful of friends and family, followed by a blowout reception at the Beverly
Hilton where the crème de la crème of Hollywood and daytime had
come to wish the happy couple well. Abby was born eight and a half months later,
thanks in part to the paparazzi, but in spite of the accident, Cassie was convinced
that her life couldn't get any better. That is, until Orlando began to
show signs that he wasn't really of the mindset to settle into the kind
of sedate family life that Cassie craved for herself and Abby, and their house
of cards had begun to crumble. When word of their divorce hit the newsstand,
Cassidy had received a letter from a fan that said in part, "...Even
though your marriage didn't work, you shouldn't blame yourself
for it. Sometimes life has a way of moving out what shouldn't be there
to make room for the blessings that are to follow." Those words had stuck
with her through the worst of the divorce proceedings and had helped her to
realize that, no matter how much it batters and bruises your heart and your
spirit, life does, in deed, go on.
Realizing that she'd stalled long enough, Cassidy gathered her things
and prepared to enter the lion's den, so to speak. She was under no illusions
that this was a social visit, as Orlando was currently riding high atop her
list of people she'd like to have killed, so she was prepared to wage
whatever kind of battle she needed to get him out of her house with the least
amount of muss and fuss. Seeing as how Orli had long been known for his astounding
ability to annoy the hell out of her just by being in the same room, she knew
tonight would be no exception to the all-out warfare that they had been engaged
in since the demise of their marriage.
Cassidy was aware that the fact that she had been dodging his phone calls
since the night of the Emmys had not gone unnoticed by her ex, and that this
evening's festivities could have the makings of the final showdown between
herself and Orli. She only prayed that Nina would be able to distract Abby
from seeing, or hearing, whatever ugliness went on between her and Orlando,
but since Nina had been with the family since shortly after Abby's birth,
and had herself broken them up when the fighting was threatening to become
physical, she was well aware of the true nature of the relationship between
her employers and had always done everything in her power to shield Abby's
innocent eyes from the harsh reality that her parents often fought like cats
and dogs, thus far having managed to keep Abigail out of the crossfire.
"Mommy!" a flying blue blur shrieked, followed closely by a smaller
brown and white one. Abigail Callista Bloom, or Abby for short, flung herself
into Cassidy's waiting arms, smothering her mother with kisses while
her new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, Blue, barked himself into a frenzy,
running in circles around Cassidy's feet. "Daddy come see me Mommy!"
"So I see, but how was your day, baby? You feeling any better?" Cassidy
asked as she carried her daughter back inside the luxurious house that, up
until a few months ago they had shared, sometimes happily and sometimes not,
as a family. She placed Abby on her feet, looking around cautiously, not wanting
to run into Lando before she'd had a chance to get Abby back to her bedroom. "Where
are you?" she mused under her breath, unaware that she had actually spoken
aloud until Abby answered her.
"Daddy in the livin' room Mommy," Abby replied sweetly,
smiling up at Cassidy. Cassie returned the smile, leaning down to pick her
daughter up again and carrying her back up the stairs to her bedroom.
"Come on baby, let's get you back into bed," she said softly,
kissing Abby's still feverish forehead. Nina waited in the hall, silently
assessing her employer as she waited for Cassidy to bring Abby back upstairs.
She and Nina had become fast friends when Nina had come to work for them right
after Abby was born, and Cassie valued her friendship more than words could
say. Cassidy knew that she would never have survived the past seven months' ordeal
if it hadn't been for the constant love and support that Nina and Taylor
had given so freely. "Nina..."
"Yeah, I know. Already taken care of Boss Lady," Nina stated.
The look that passed between the two of them reassured Cassidy that Nina had
already made arrangements to keep Abby occupied, so Cassidy felt confident
in leaving her child in Nina's capable hands so that she could go deal
"Hey Cookie, Mommy needs to go downstairs and have a talk with Daddy.
Nina's gonna stay up here with you, and once Daddy leaves, I'll
come back and tuck you in, okay?" she stated, kissing Abby again, and
then watching as Nina led her back into her bedroom, closing the door firmly
behind them. Cassidy sighed, clearly not in the mood to deal with her ex, but
knowing that he would not leave until he'd said whatever it was that
he felt was so all-fired important. She made her way back downstairs, pausing
briefly outside the gigantic sunken living room to marshal the forces, so to
speak, but Orlando's voice called out to her, letting her know that he
was well aware of her presence.
"You might as well come in Cassie. I'm not going to bite you," he
said, sounding remarkably civil compared to what Cassidy had been prepared
to deal with. Cassidy still went back on high alert; knowing as she did just
how malicious her husband could be, especially when he was sounding almost
human. She said a silent prayer and then entered the room, standing face to
face with her now ex-husband.
Even though it had only been six weeks since the Daytime Emmys, Cassidy was
struck anew at just how little Orlando's look had changed over the last
few years, even given his penchant for hard drinking and hard living. His dark
brown, wavy hair was badly in need of a cut, but then, she'd always preferred
him with longer hair, saying it gave him an air of masculinity that was very
becoming. When he'd come home from Tahiti, where'd he had been
filming Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Cassie
had taken great pleasure in running her fingers through his then shoulder length
hair, and had even taken to washing it for him. His hazel brown eyes, which
millions of women would have given their eye teeth to have staring into theirs,
now regarded her warily, as if afraid of how she would react to his being there
uninvited. In the beginning, Cassidy had been as mesmerized by those flashing
eyes as the rest of his legions of fans, but that was before the tarnish had
worn off their relationship. Back then, all he'd had to do was glance
at her longingly and she was on fire for him, but she'd learned quickly
that those beautiful brown eyes could turn the coldest shade of black in an
instant, usually when he had been drinking, and those were the times that she
had learned the hard way just how difficult loving Orlando could be.
"How have you been?" he said finally, breaking their silent truce.
She watched him, still wary, but slowly relaxing as she went to sit on the
"I've been fine Orli, but why are you here?" she asked
in her usual forthright manner, which made Orlando chuckle in spite of himself.
"Always the impatient one Cassie...but that's one of the
things I always loved about you," he replied. When she seemed about to
say something, he continued, "I came by because Nina told me Abby was
ill earlier when I called, and I was worried. I am still allowed to be concerned
about our daughter's welfare, aren't I?"
"Of course you are. I wasn't trying to imply that you weren't," Cassidy
stated evenly. "You know that you're always welcome to see Abby,
but I'm just curious as to why you're still here now that I'm
"Damn it Cass, I just wanted to see you and talk to you, and this is
the only way I could, since you obviously aren't accepting my calls anymore," he
replied bitterly. Cassidy had the decency to blush, averting her gaze as Orlando
continued to scrutinize her carefully as he knelt on the floor in front of
her. "I-I know you probably won't believe this, but I miss our
"You're right Orli. I don't believe you," Cassidy
replied coolly, her gaze now assessing. "Now why are you really here?
Were you hoping that Taylor would be here too so you could see firsthand what
kind of damage your little pronouncement caused?"
"I know what I did was wrong Cassidy, but damn it, I was hurting too
you know!" he replied, frowning when Cassidy snorted incredulously. "It's
true! I know I hurt you and Taylor, but I was angry because you always seemed
to put him before me. Whenever anything good happened to you, you ran to tell
Taylor first, and that hurt! Everything was Taylor this and Taylor that!" Softening
a little, he said, "And God help me, I realized that the day I let you
go was the biggest mistake of my life. I had just lost the only two people
in the world who meant anything to me..."
"You sure as hell have a funny way of showing how much you missed me," Cassidy
retorted, "but I must say, you did a bang up job of hiding your so called
heartache. Hell, the ink was barely dry on our divorce decree before you were
seen all over town hanging onto whatever bimbette or wannabe starlet you could
get your hands on! And don't give me that crap about always turning to
Taylor either, because you checked out of this marriage long before I did!"
Orlando stood up, frustrated and angry, but knowing nonetheless that they
needed to get these things out into the open. "That's not true
and you know it! I loved you Cassidy, but you just seemed to want to get farther
and farther away from me as time went on, and I just don't understand
why. Why didn't you love me anymore?"
"Oh Orli, I never stopped loving you. I just stopped showing
you because you didn't seem to care one way or the other how I felt," Cassidy
replied, sighing deeply as the walls surrounding her pain began to crumble
and the truth began to spill forth. "You and I used to be a force to
be reckoned with. When we first got together, you made me feel like I was the
most important thing in your world, and then when Abby was born, you were so happy... I
don't think I've ever seen you as content as you were when you
held her in your arms for the first time. So I deluded myself into believing
that you were actually ready to settle down with us and be a real family, but
then you changed. It was like you were rebelling against everything Abby and
I stood for. You started partying, staying out all night... Sometimes
you didn't even come home at all, and when you did finally decide to
grace us with your presence, I could smell the women on you, and Orli, that
was what hurt most of all; knowing that you were cheating on me. I could deal
with the boozing and partying, because hell, I did it too, but your infidelity
was what drove me to kick you out more than anything. The fight with Taylor
that last night was just the final straw. So excuse me if I didn't seem
to want to be here anymore, but I knew I could never stay with someone I couldn't
"I didn't know. God, I'm sorry Cassie...about everything," he
said softly, pulling her up and hugging her fiercely. "And just so that
you know, I did care... I still care," he added softly after an
interminable silence. He kissed her gently, caressing her cheek as his lips
lingered on hers for a moment before releasing her and moving away, going to
the doorway but Cassidy's voice stopped him.
"I still love you too Orlando Bloom, and I probably always will," Cassidy
stated, her eyes shining with mischief. "After all, I could never stay
angry with the man my daughter believes can slay dragons just for her."
The first real smile of the evening lit Orlando's face at the mention
of his daughter, the one bright spot in the mess he'd made of his marriage
to the woman he still loved. "Is it okay if I go say goodnight to Abby
before I go?"
"Of course silly. She's still your daughter too, you know," Cassidy
replied, settling down on the couch with her copy of the next day's shooting
script open on her lap to study once he'd disappeared upstairs. She said
a quick prayer of gratitude for things having gone as well as they had, knowing
that it could have quickly disintegrated into a shouting match the likes of
which would have been fodder for the grist mill for weeks to come. She finally
felt at peace about how things had gone in her marriage, and having the truth
out in the open about her knowledge of his infidelities had gone a long way
toward cleansing her heart of the malice and animosity she'd carried
towards Orli for some time. She knew it would be a while, but she knew that
now they were both on the road to finding forgiveness.
Maybe now I can start rebuilding my life, Cassidy thought with a smile.
Shaking off her thoughts of him, she quickly returned her thoughts to her script,
trying to concentrate, but instead allowed herself the chance to relax, and
soon she was sound asleep.
Orlando came back down a few minutes later, peeking into the room with the
intention of telling Cassidy good night, but he paused when he saw her, a gentle
smile blossoming. She sat slightly slumped over on the couch, her reading glasses
askew, and her daily script in serious danger of being eaten alive by the sofa.
Her hair had begun to creep free of the topknot that she usually wore around
the house and had fallen over her closed eyes, giving her a sweetly angelic
look in repose. He rescued her script, laying it on the coffee table in front
of her still open to the page where she had left off reading, and then caressed
her cheek, his heart fluttering just like it had done every single time he'd
touched her from the very first moment that he'd met Cassidy all those
years ago at the anniversary party for her show. He watched her sleep a little
while longer, his fingers pushing a stray strand of hair from her cheek, and
then pressing a tender kiss on her forehead, he turned her around to lie flat
on the couch, covering her with the afghan from the back of the reclining chair
before kissing her one final time.
"I take it you two finally talked," Nina said from the doorway,
smiling as she watched the scene unfold in front of her. Orlando turned to
her with a small smile playing around the corners of his lips; truly content
with the way his life was going for the first time in a very long while.
"Yes we did... and thank you Nina for all the advice you gave
me about how to talk to Cassie," Orlando said, moving over to stand in
front of the woman his ex-wife counted among her best friends. "I really
appreciate your not shutting me out after the divorce was finalized, even though
I know you probably hate me, and I especially appreciate how much you love
my wife and daughter. Will you take care of them for me while I'm gone?" he
asked, referring to his upcoming plans to be out of the country for at least
the next four months working on his newest project, the sequel to the immensely
popular Pirates of the Caribbean.
"You don't even have to ask," Nina replied, smiling at
her former employer as she walked him to the door. Just as he was about to
walk out, she put out a hand to stop him, smiling gently at the obviously love-struck
young man. "All you have to do is be patient Orlando. Cassidy does still
love you, but I think underneath all the anger and hostility, she's trying
to reconcile herself to wanting someone who has hurt her so badly. You just
need to keep showing her that you believe having her and Abby back in your
life is as important as you say it is, and she'll come around. Maybe
by the time you come back she'll be ready to consider letting you back
into her heart, but be warned: I won't stand for you hurting her again.
It broke my heart to have to hold her and listen to her crying herself sick
every night over the hell you were putting her through during the divorce,
and even more so before then, and I refuse to let you hurt her and Abby like
that anymore. So if you're even the tiniest bit unsure about wanting
your family back, please, just let them go so they can find some happiness."
"Nina, you know as well as I do that I screwed up in some ways that
I will never be able to forgive myself for, but my family means everything
to me, and if I have to fight for them, then bring it on," Orlando said,
his eyes glinting with steely resolve. "I love my wife more than I can
say, and my little girl is the only perfect thing I ever did, so I'll
do whatever it takes to get back into Cassidy's life... and into
"Well you certainly have your work cut out for you. Right now Cassidy
doesn't trust you as far as she can throw you, and that's your
biggest obstacle. You need to help her rebuild that, but know that if you hurt
her, you will answer to me—and that won't be pretty," Nina
said just as resolutely. Even though she had been a witness to many, many fights
between her employers, she knew that the main reason they'd fought so
much was because Cassidy loved Orlando with all her heart, without rhyme or
reason or room for anything or anyone else, save Abby, and Cassidy had been
in an almost desperate battle to save her marriage while having to appear to
the whole world as if her life was not falling apart around her.
"Yes ma'am!" Orlando said, saluting smartly before he kissed
her quickly on the cheek and headed out into the night, bound for his home
in the San Fernando Valley. For the first time in several months he felt the
weight of loneliness and indecisiveness lifting, and the prospect of getting
his family back buoyed his spirits considerably. While he had never been the
most patient of men, for the chance at having Cassidy in his arms again he
would show the patience of a saint if need be. One thing was certain; no matter
how much he loved Cassidy and wanted all to be as it had been before, the road
ahead would not be an easy one. Too much time and too much water had flowed
under their bridge for them to ever go back to what they had been at the beginning.
They would have to build something new out of the ashes of their former life,
but he was ready for the battles ahead of him. Now all he had to do was begin
the slow and arduous process of winning back his ex-wife's trust.
On the other side of the city, Taylor was slowly allowing himself to have
a good time. He had been incredibly apprehensive about coming in the first
place; had it not been for Cassie nearly dragging him here herself, he wouldn't
have come at all. It's not that he was afraid of meeting new people,
especially new guys, but ever since the explosion at the Emmys he had been
even more cautious with how he handled his life. He had been the target of
many people's hate since that night, as had Cassie to a lesser extent,
which pissed him off royally, but Cassie consistently told him not to worry
about how it might affect her. She knew as well as he did that their names
had been synonymously linked to one another in the eyes of the world not long
after the premiere of the show; one could hardly mention Taylor or Cassie in
a conversation without mentioning the other. Taylor tried hard to take the
comments in stride, but his resolve was slowly weakening.
Going out in public these days always seemed to be nightmarish. Everywhere
he went, it seemed the paparazzi were on his tail. There was constant speculation
about who his new boyfriend would be, or whether the entire thing was just
a publicity stunt in order to mask the secret relationship between him and
Cassie. So, it went without saying that having dinner at a restaurant, especially
one as prestigious and upscale as Luca's, with another guy made him nervous.
What made him more nervous was that his dinner date was as famous, if not more
so, than he was. Taylor seemed fairly certain that he had not been followed,
but he couldn't be completely sure of that nowadays. If anyone got wind
of this, and especially who his dinner companion was, it would be tabloid fodder
"You okay?" his dinner date asked, concern evident on his face. "You
got quiet all of a sudden."
"Yeah, I'm fine," Taylor said with a smile. "I just
got lost for a moment in my thoughts."
"Oh, okay. You know, I'm really glad you came. I was starting
to think you weren't going to show. My agent said that Cassidy Saunders
forced you to come."
Taylor looked a little guilty. "Sorry. I hope I haven't offended
you by that. It was nothing personal against you, it's just that being
seen around me right now isn't exactly the smartest of moves for anyone," Taylor
said, lowering his voice, "especially if they are still hiding in the
Taylor's rich baritone made shivers run up and down his date's
spine. "Well, if anyone says anything, then I just have to make up an
excuse. Besides, who would ever think of suggesting that Justin Timberlake
was gay?" Justin said with a sly grin. "Any paper that printed
that would be bombarded with hate mail."
"It's too bad that didn't work for me," Taylor said,
and then grinned. "Cassie said it should have been obvious to the world
that I was batting for the other side because I was too sexy to be straight."
"She's right, you know," Justin said quietly, which caused
Taylor to blush. "I take it you work out?" he asked, eyeing Taylor
carefully, trying to imprint the man's physique into his mind.
"Every day," Taylor said, subconsciously flexing his muscles. "'Soap
stars don't have to just look good; they have to look beyond perfect,'" he
continued, mimicking Alex's favorite rant. "My director says that
all the time. He likes to fuss at me over my hair, but I've told him
time and again that no matter how much the stylists work on it, as soon as
they're done, I'm going to fix it to the way I like it. So far,
there have been no complaints from the rest of the world about that..."
Justin noticed that Taylor had drifted off again, so he asked, "So
how are things going for Cassie now that her divorce is final?" Ever
since Justin had made up his mind to go after Taylor, he had read everything
he could get his hands on to find out as much information as he could about
the man. He knew just about everything, down to Taylor's shoe size. To
say that he was just a little obsessed with knowing every little detail about
Taylor would have been an understatement. Of course, to find out all about
Taylor meant doing double research duty—he had to find out a lot about
Cassie as well.
Taylor looked up in surprise. "She seems to be doing fine, especially
since the bastard hasn't shown his face in a long time," Taylor
growled, which startled Justin a little. Taylor's brown eyes, Justin
noticed, normally had a playful sparkle to them, but the moment he'd
mentioned Orlando Bloom, Taylor's eyes quickly become cold and angry.
"That's a good thing though, right? From what I read in some
of the news reports of the divorce proceedings, it sounds like the guy was
pretty harsh to her."
"Her, me, whomever got in his way. Aside from Abby, no one was immune," Taylor
"Abby. That's their daughter, right?" Justin asked.
"Yeah. She's a sweet little four-year-old girl. Speaking of which," Taylor
said, a thought occurring to him, "would you excuse me a second? I'm
going to call Cassie and check on her. Abby's been sick in bed all day."
"No, not at all. Go right ahead," Justin said with a big smile, "as
long as you promise to come back."
"I will," Taylor said as he stood up. "I'll be back
shortly." Taylor left the table and went outside to call Cassie so he
wouldn't disturb anyone else's dinner.
Dialing her home number, the phone rang a couple of times before he heard
Nina's voice come on the line. "Hello, Saunders residence."
"Hey Neen," Taylor said with a laugh. "I'm still
trying to get used to you saying that now."
"Taylor, how are you?" Nina said joyfully. While she was also
one of Cassie's best friends, forty-six year old Nina Villarreal often
regarded both Cassie and Taylor as the children she was never able to have.
She loved them both dearly and was always concerned about their welfare. When
the Emmy debacle occurred, Taylor was mortified, Cassie was pissed, but Nina
was almost out for blood. In the beginning, she had liked Orlando well enough,
but her opinion of the man quickly changed over the years, and there were times
where she had tolerated him only for Cassie and Abby's sake. If Orlando
had been serious in his desire to change and get his family back, she hoped
she would be able to learn to like him again.
"I'm doing well, but more importantly, how's Abby?"
"Why don't you ask her yourself? The little monster won't
go to bed!" Nina teased as she handed the phone to Abby who, despite
being sick, seemed to be a bundle of energy.
"Taylor!" Abby screamed into the phone, so loud that Taylor had
to pull the phone away from his ear. "Taylor, guess what? Guess what?
"What? What? What?" Taylor replied, mimicking the child's
"Daddy come to see me today!" Abby said excitedly. Taylor quickly
felt a pit forming in his stomach, unsure of what to say. The words foremost
on his mind were inappropriate to be said to Abby, and he was startled when
Abby said, "Taylor? Taylor! Where you go?"
"Sorry Sugar," Taylor said, calling Abby by his pet name for
her. "That's wonderful," he continued slowly, trying hard
to mask his disdain for the man.
"Yeah, an' he said that if I feel better on Friday, he's
gonna take me on a pony ride!" Abby shrieked with glee.
"That's great!" Taylor said, trying hard to be happy for
Abby. While he hated Orlando with a passion, he did have to give the man credit
for trying to do right by his little girl. "How long did you get to visit
"A coupla hours," Abby said, "an' then Mommy came
home an' made me go back ta bed."
Taylor could almost hear her pouting on the other side. "Abby, your
mommy wants you to get better, and sick little girls need their rest. Well,
I need to go, Sugar. Give Nina a kiss for me and give her back the phone, okay?"
"Okie Taylor. G'night," Abby said before handing the phone
"Hi Taylor, I'm back," Nina said, "and I know what
you're going to say. Give me a second." Taylor waited patiently
while he envisioned Nina leaving Abby's room and walking down the hallway
to get out of earshot. "I didn't expect him to show up today, but
when he called and I told him Abby wasn't feeling well, he insisted on
coming to see her."
"Did he and Cassie talk to each other?" Taylor asked.
"Actually, they did, and it went quite amicably. I was rather surprised."
"What is that man up to?" Taylor mused quietly, his suspicions
on high alert.
"What makes you think he's up to something?" Nina asked
lightly. She knew that this was an extremely touchy subject for Taylor, so
she knew that telling him about her conversation with Orlando would be a bad
"Because he's always up to something," Taylor said in a
hostile tone. "Sorry Nina, but you know how I feel about him."
"And I don't fault you one bit, cariño," Nina said
quietly. Changing the subject, she said, "So, is everything okay on your
"Yeah, I was just calling to check on Abby and tell Cassie that if
this dinner continues as well as it has gone so far, I might not kill her in
the morning," Taylor chuckled. "Is she around?"
"Last I saw her, she was asleep on the couch. Do you want me to wake
"No, no," Taylor said. "That's okay. When she wakes
up, let her know that I called and that I'll see her in the morning."
"Are you not coming over tonight to run through the script for tomorrow?" Nina
"No. Cassie's been working too hard lately, and she needs a little
break. Besides, I have no idea how long I'm going to be, and don't
want her to wait up for me."
"So who's the mystery man?" Nina asked.
"I'm not telling!" Taylor said in a singsong voice. "Besides,
if Cass were to ever find out that I told you before her, I'd never hear
the end of it!"
"All right, all right. Point taken. I'm thinking you should get
back to your dinner, so I'm going to let you go. Take care Taylor, and
please be careful," Nina said, worry evident in her voice.
"I will be," Taylor said. "Good night Nina."
"Good night Taylor," Nina said, and then the two hung up.
Leaning against the wall of the restaurant, Taylor turned and looked through
the window of the restaurant where he spotted the waiter delivering the food
to their table. Shaking his head, he said quietly, "Cassie, what have
you gotten me into?" Taking a deep breath, he stowed his phone inside
of his pocket and went back inside.
After the food had been placed on the tables, Justin scanned the restaurant
continuously, watching for signs of Taylor. The six-foot-two, well-built man
made Justin's heart skip, and there were times it was all Justin could
do to restrain himself from jumping over the table and attacking him there
in the restaurant. Finally spotting Taylor heading his direction, he watched
as Taylor turned his back to him to say hello to someone, giving Justin a moment
to check out Taylor's backside. "Mmmmm. Hello. What do we have
here?" Justin murmured as he checked out Taylor's ass. "I
would love to get my hands on that." Justin chuckled as he shook his
head. He was starting to realize that many of his fans probably had the same
exact thoughts about him!
Taylor finally returned and took his seat across from Justin. "Sorry
about that," he apologized as he looked at the great food in front of
"No worries," Justin said. "It's sweet that you care
so much about her. How is she?"
"She's still sick, but you'd never know considering how
much energy she has," Taylor said with a grin. "I do care a lot
about her. There are times where I almost feel like she's my own kid.
Considering that the chances of me ever having children are dwindling toward
zero, if I can't have my own, I might as well live vicariously through
Cassie and Abby."
"You don't know that," Justin said. "You still might
have a child someday."
"With these hips?" Taylor joked. "Not any time soon I'm
"Now you're being facetious," Justin said.
"I know," Taylor said with a sigh, "but it's kind
of hard to have children when your partner has the wrong equipment to do the
"There's always adoption, or a surrogate mother. Think about
it. What woman in America wouldn't want to hop in the sack with Taylor
Taylor began to blush heavily. "Justin, stop it," Taylor hissed,
but smiling in spite of himself.
"And there's that award-winning smile!" Justin said gleefully.
"Yeah, even though Cassie was the one who had to accept it when I fled
for the hills in a panic," Taylor grumbled. Like Cassie, he'd won
his category for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, but since his category
had come after hers, he had not been around to accept it. Therefore, Cassie
went up and accepted it for him, and left the audience with a few choice words
"I'm sorry my partner in crime had to leave early, but I'm
honored to accept this award for him on his behalf," she had said. "I've
already thanked everyone on the show when I accepted my award, and they know
they're loved, so excuse me if I don't take an hour to thank
them again. Taylor is one of the best people I know, and whether some accusations
made by certain people are true or not, I know the kind of character this
man possesses; that alone is worth its weight in gold. I also know there
are some people in this world who would like nothing more than to bring Taylor
down, but remember that messing with him means messing with the 'Pit
Bull of Daytime.' Think about that. Anyway, congratulations best friend.
You deserve this every bit as much as I did." She then thanked
a few people Taylor would have wanted mentioned and left the stage to thunderous
"I saw the replay of that," Justin said before taking a bite
of his food, "and that girl is kind of scary."
"She's more bark than bite, but I find it's one of her
more admirable qualities. She's also fiercely loyal, and she'd
bend over backward to help a friend."
"Including forcing them to go out and have a good time?" Justin
Man, she is going to pay for that later! Taylor thought. "She
was trying to help, and I've had a good time so far. It's kind
of nice to talk with someone who has at least some sort of inkling as to what
it's like to be me right now."
"The only difference is that your news is public and mine isn't..." Justin
trailed off and had kind of a faraway look in his eyes.
"You're worried about what would happen if everyone found out," Taylor
said, noting the sad look in Justin's eyes, "yet the having to
hide who you are is eating at you inside."
Justin nodded. "I don't know what to do. I don't know what
to think. I'm sick of lying, sick of hiding... sick of everything
really. There are times where I wish I had never been famous."
"I think we've all had that moment," Taylor said quietly. "I've
been like that all month. It would be nice to go one day and not have someone
rub my sexuality in my face. The tabloids are having a field day, the news
media can't seem to harp on it enough, and my incoming mail has tripled.
The show has had to hire two extra people just to handle it, and a third of
it is hate mail from every fanatical gay-hating group in America."
Justin didn't know how to respond. Taylor was very much living the
nightmare Justin had always envisioned would happen if he announced himself
to the world, but he wasn't sure if there was a silver lining in there
as well. At least Taylor would be able to date openly with whomever he wanted,
as long as his date wasn't like him who wanted to stay in the closet. I've
got to do something, Justin thought. He's such a great guy, and
damn he is ever hot, but there's no way he's going to hook up with
me if I can't open up.
The conversation soon turned to things a little more mundane: Justin's
life, Taylor's life, their interests, their hobbies, and so forth. Taylor
was having a great time, and he decided he really liked the guy, even though
he knew that Justin was five years his junior. He's pretty cute, Taylor
thought, but he's a bit on the skinny side. Oh well, can't have
As the evening drew to a close, Taylor decided that he really ought to thank
Cassie for making him go—whether or not he actually told her remained
to be seen. Justin paid the check, and the two were chatting over a couple
cups of coffee when Taylor noted the time on his watch. "Wow, it's
gotten late. I should probably head out."
"Leaving so soon?" Justin asked with a bit of a whine, his face
"It's starting to get late, and I'm shooting early tomorrow."
"Oh. Well, I kind of hate for the night to end," Justin began. "Maybe
we could, you know, continue this conversation at...your house?"
Taylor's mind whirled as he wondered where Justin was going with this,
and then it him like a ton of bricks. "No offense Justin, but I really
do have an early morning tomorrow," he said lightly, trying not to crush
"Are you sure? We could still have a lot of fun tonight," Justin
"It's possible my definition of fun and yours are completely
different, and at the moment I think they are, but either way, it's not
happening tonight." Taylor stood up and handed Justin a card with his
cell phone number written on the back. "I did have a good time tonight.
Maybe we should get together again soon."
Justin looked at the card and then up at Taylor's smiling face. "Yeah,
that would be good. I'd like that. I'll give you a call, okay?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," Taylor replied as he leaned over
to shake the young man's hand. "I'll catch you later." Taylor
then turned and started to walk out of the restaurant.
Justin leaned back and stared at Taylor's ass as he walked out, and
wished that the man had taken him up on his offer. "You can play hard
to get Taylor, " Justin said quietly to himself, "but just like
the police, I always get my man."
Taylor was driving home, a bit lost in thought. If he didn't know any
better, he would say that Justin was trying to proposition him, and on the
first date nonetheless! Even if Taylor wanted to, and there was a large part
of him that kind of did, his sense of propriety and common decency would never
permit that. After all, his mama taught him the rules of proper dating, and
those rules didn't change just because his date was the same gender.
While the dinner had gone well, the chaos afterward was not only unexpected,
but maddening as well. Taylor had barely stepped five feet out of the restaurant
when the paparazzi was on him, barraging him with questions. They always seemed
to be on his tail these days, and it was becoming a major nuisance. He ignored
them as he waited for the valet to bring his car around. It was a momentary
annoyance, as his car was brought quickly, but every second he had to withstand
it was sometimes more than he could bear. He was thankful that he didn't
walk out of the restaurant with Justin, for that would have created w whole
other set of problems Taylor wasn't sure he was equal to tackling. Taylor
wasn't kidding when he said that hanging around him was bad; any male
friends of his that were seen in public with him were instantly linked to him
romantically in the press, that is, when they weren't still speculating
about him and Cassie.
Taylor tried to clear his mind as he turned on the radio and flipped the
dial to his favorite station. Humming along with the song, he continued along
the freeway and made his way home. Upon arriving at the house, he pulled into
the driveway and turned off the ignition. Heaving a heavy sigh, he got out
of the car and went about four steps when he heard a noise behind him. Spinning
around, he scanned for the source of the noise, but couldn't see anything
in the dark. Shrugging it off, Taylor turned to walk inside his house when
a young woman, maybe twenty or so, appeared in his path.
"Uh, hi," Taylor said. "Can I help you?"
The woman seemed to be awestruck by Taylor, and she finally mumbled, "Are
you Taylor Jeffries? The guy who plays Dylan Baxter on Temptations?"
Taylor relaxed a little. He wasn't sure how this woman had found his
address, but if she was just a fan, he could handle that. It wouldn't
be the first time a fan had shown up on his doorstep. "Yeah, I am," Taylor
said with a smile. "Are you a fan of the show?"
The woman giggled a little and nodded. "I didn't realize you
were this attractive and nice in person," the woman said. Taylor beamed
at her, and the woman giggled again. "It was nice meeting you. Maybe
I should go."
This surprised Taylor a little. Most people would have at least wanted an
autograph. "Hey, I'm assuming you came all the way out here for
a reason. Did you want an autograph, or picture, or something?"
The woman seemed to hesitate a bit, which confused Taylor even more. "No,
that's okay. I really should go. It was lovely meeting you!"
Taylor was now even more confused, but who understood fans anyway? "Okay,
well, good-bye then."
Taylor started to go inside when he felt something strike him hard in the
back. He landed on his front lawn face down, his back throbbing in agony. "Jimmy,
no!" he heard the woman's voice yell.
Trying to find some way to get some leverage against his attacker, whom he
now knew only as 'Jimmy,' Taylor tried to crawl away from where
he was, but he felt another blow soon come to his back. "Stupid fag!" he
heard the man above him spit. "You wanna be a fag? This is what you get." Taylor
yelled as he felt two more blows to his back and sides. "If you know
what's good for you, I suggest you stay away from Cassidy Saunders and
her little girl before something bad happens to them too!"
"Jimmy, don't!" the woman shrieked again.
"Madeleine, shut up!" Jimmy barked as he brought the bat down
on Taylor's head. As Taylor's body slumped to the ground, Jimmy
said, "Serves you right, you sick perv."
Taylor was fading in and out of consciousness as he watched the man flee
toward the car parked across the street from his house. Through slightly blurred
vision, he was able to discern the color of the car and a couple letters in
the license plate, but that was about all. Realizing that he needed help, he
reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He heard the screeching
tires of the car carrying his attackers leaving the scene, and he prayed that
someone—anyone—had seen the events unfold. Fumbling with the phone,
his vision had begun to blur even more, and he could barely make out the numbers
on the phone. Fortunately, he could speed dial Cassie blindfolded if necessary,
and he quickly had the phone dialing her number.
Cassie was jolted awake by the sound of her phone ringing next to her on
the couch. "Who on earth could that be?" she wondered aloud as
she sat up. "Oh, I must have dozed off." Looking down at the afghan
covering her, she smiled warmly. Shaking her head, she said, "Nina. Always
looking out for me." Picking up the phone, she said sleepily, "Saunders
"Cassie, help!" Taylor said weakly.
The adrenaline rush in Cassie's body shocked her fully awake. "Taylor?
What is it? What's wrong?"
"Cassie, help me please! Hurt...pain...so much pain," Taylor
pleaded, his voice starting to fade out.
"Where are you?" Cassie yelled, flying off the couch and running
for the kitchen table where she had set her keys and purse.
"H-h-home. Hurry Cass..." Taylor trailed off.
coming Taylor!" Cassie yelled. "Taylor? Are
you still there? Answer me Taylor!" Cassie continued to yell into the
phone, but there was no response. "Taylor? Taylor!!!!"
To be continued...
Will Cassidy make it to Taylor's side in time, or will the mysterious
'Jimmy' decide to come back and finish the job he started? Was Orlando's
declaration to Nina sincere, or merely a means to mask his real intentions?
What will Justin do when he finds out about what happened to Taylor? Drop Rob or Nicole a
line and let us know your thoughts.
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