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  • The Keller homestead, where the family lived, was a few steps from our little rose-bower.

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  • It is a little speech that I have written for him.

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  • The little porch was hidden from view by a screen of yellow roses and Southern smilax.

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  • A sudden gust of wind circled them and whispered words in her mind.

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  • He stooped and picked up a bird's nest that had fallen upon the ground.

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  • Analysts declared each successive generation might be "the first to have a lower standard of living than their parents."

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  • He arched a dark brow "Alexia?"

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  • But what about a reasoned belief based on a balanced look at both history and current reality that leads you to be optimistic?

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  • But I am making a simple statement that life is better now than it has ever been.

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  • He was dressed in black, and had a very pleasant face.

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  • Suddenly he stopped at the foot of a tree.

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  • Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?

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  • It is a custom in the South to build a small house near the homestead as an annex to be used on occasion.

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  • Are you down here taking inventory or doing a lot of thinking?

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  • By the time he had attached a handle to this sword he was having much trouble to breathe, as the charm of the Sorcerer was beginning to take effect.

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  • Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion.

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  • "What can one say about it?" replied the prince in a cold, listless tone.

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  • But in the excitement of carrying me to church my father lost the name on the way, very naturally, since it was one in which he had declined to have a part.

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  • A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.

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  • Prince Vasili always spoke languidly, like an actor repeating a stale part.

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  • "A nice country this is," he grumbled, "where a respectable horse has to eat pink grass!"

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  • But it took a good many years for them to grow as large and fine as they are now.

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  • Such a house my father built after the Civil War, and when he married my mother they went to live in it.

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  • I see how human ingenuity and new technologies have eliminated previously insoluble problems once we stand back and let free markets do what they do best: direct the allocation of capital to find a solution.

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  • He walked down the hill, pausing a reverent moment at the headstone, and then ducked under a limb as he continued down the hill.

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  • The incessant anxiety and strain of some is a well-nigh incurable form of disease.

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  • "He will not be a wonderful Wizard long," remarked Gwig.

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  • At a place where two roads crossed, they saw a tall gentleman coming to meet them.

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  • This famous Prussian neutrality is just a trap.

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  • When it slowed for the drive, the dust caught up, hiding it in a swirling cloud.

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  • The Wizard reached out, caught the wee creature in his hand, and holding its head between one thumb and finger and its tail between the other thumb and finger he pulled it apart, each of the two parts becoming a whole and separate piglet in an instant.

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  • This was a decision she had already made once - but not really.

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  • When they passed over a field of grass Jim immediately stretched down his head and began to nibble.

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  • That this democratization of information and opinion would lead to vigorous debate and encourage a young monk to question the church?

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  • Let's face it: Futurists as a whole have a pretty poor track record.

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  • I don't like him, she added in a tone admitting of no rejoinder and raising her eyebrows.

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  • We have, in fact, envisioned a better world and have made it happen.

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  • And not just a path, but a well-lit, eight-lane highway.

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  • I am also a historian with a full understanding of how poverty, disease, ignorance, famine, and war have dominated life on this planet.

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  • Anna Pavlovna had had a cough for some days.

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  • And I don't believe a word that Hardenburg says, or Haugwitz either.

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  • Getting around in front, so that she could look inside, the girl saw a boy curled up on the seat, fast asleep.

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  • Just then they heard the big voice of Jim the cab-horse calling to them, and going to the doorway leading to the dome they found the Princess and a throng of her people had entered the House of the Sorcerer.

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  • "None of us has had breakfast," said the boy; "and in a time of danger like this it's foolish to talk about eating."

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  • A balloon meant to her some other arrival from the surface of the earth, and she hoped it would be some one able to assist her and Zeb out of their difficulties.

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  • I think I shall keep this Wizard until a new Sorcerer is ready to pick, for he seems quite skillful and may be of use to us.

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  • But the pulling of them apart and pushing them together again was only a sleight-of-hand trick.

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  • "Do so, my child," said the Minister; "and I hope that when you grow up you will become a wise man and a great orator."

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  • But nowhere in it was there even a hint that it might not be possible.

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  • But I can see a path.

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  • They tell me I walked the day I was a year old.

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  • But during the first nineteen months of my life I had caught glimpses of broad, green fields, a luminous sky, trees and flowers which the darkness that followed could not wholly blot out.

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  • All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.

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  • When one man has reduced a fact of the imagination to be a fact to his understanding, I foresee that all men at length establish their lives on that basis.

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  • Many voices shouted and talked at the same time, so that Count Rostov had not time to signify his approval of them all, and the group increased, dispersed, re-formed, and then moved with a hum of talk into the largest hall and to the big table.

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  • Then the three held a counsel to decide what they should do next, but could think of no way to better their condition.

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  • They seemed to be falling right into the middle of a big city which had many tall buildings with glass domes and sharp-pointed spires.

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  • So, with a snort and a neigh and a whisk of his short tail he trotted off the roof into the air and at once began floating downward to the street.

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  • I suppose they're both a little artificial.

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  • "We had a lot of earthquakes," said Dorothy.

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  • When a Christmas waltz began, a warm hand gripped her elbow.

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  • Instead, he drew a leathern case from his pocket and took from it several sharp knives, which he joined together, one after another, until they made a long sword.

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  • As a matter of fact, I'm eating rainbow grass.

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  • Several Mangaboos came forward with glass spades and dug a hole in the ground.

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  • Glinka, the editor of the Russian Messenger, who was recognized (cries of "author! author!" were heard in the crowd), said that "hell must be repulsed by hell," and that he had seen a child smiling at lightning flashes and thunderclaps, but "we will not be that child."

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  • A warm hand rested on her waist.

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  • By this time the party had reached a freshly plowed field, and the Prince said to Dorothy:

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  • The cab-horse, who was browsing near, lifted his head with a sigh.

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  • He had nearly finished this last task when a low growling was suddenly heard and the horse began to jump around and kick viciously with his heels.

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  • The mountain before them was shaped like a cone and was so tall that its point was lost in the clouds.

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  • The family on my father's side is descended from Caspar Keller, a native of Switzerland, who settled in Maryland.

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  • Pierre pushed his way into the middle of the group, listened, and convinced himself that the man was indeed a liberal, but of views quite different from his own.

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  • The naval officer spoke in a particularly sonorous, musical, and aristocratic baritone voice, pleasantly swallowing his r's and generally slurring his consonants: the voice of a man calling out to his servant, Heah!

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  • Adraksin was in uniform, and whether as a result of the uniform or from some other cause Pierre saw before him quite a different man.

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  • With a sudden expression of malevolence on his aged face, Adraksin shouted at Pierre:

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  • "Yes, and this is not a time for discussing," he continued, "but for acting: there is war in Russia!

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  • Pierre wished to reply, but could not get in a word.

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  • Count Rostov at the back of the crowd was expressing approval; several persons, briskly turning a shoulder to the orator at the end of a phrase, said:

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  • Not only was Pierre's attempt to speak unsuccessful, but he was rudely interrupted, pushed aside, and people turned away from him as from a common enemy.

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  • At this point, abandoning the two fertilized eggs might be a worse sin.

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  • As she peered through the soft gray light not a house of any sort was visible near the station, nor was any person in sight; but after a while the child discovered a horse and buggy standing near a group of trees a short distance away.

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  • Will somebody kindly loan me a hat?

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  • "Ahem!" said the Wizard, "will somebody please loan me a handkerchief?"

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  • This the Wizard placed underneath his hat and made a mystic sign above it.

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  • The little man gave a bow to the silent throng that had watched him, and then the Prince said, in his cold, calm voice:

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  • Just then his eye fell upon the lanterns and the can of kerosene oil which Zeb had brought from the car of his balloon, and he got a clever idea from those commonplace things.

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  • So he placed Dorothy upon one side of him and the boy upon the other and set a lantern upon each of their heads.

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  • One day in spring four men were riding on horseback along a country road.

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  • A few impressions stand out vividly from the first years of my life; but "the shadows of the prison-house are on the rest."

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  • I was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, a little town of northern Alabama.

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  • There, too, after a fit of temper, I went to find comfort and to hide my hot face in the cool leaves and grass.

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  • I have travelled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways.

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  • They have no friend Iolaus to burn with a hot iron the root of the hydra's head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring up.

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  • With these words she greeted Prince Vasili Kuragin, a man of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her reception.

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  • All her invitations without exception, written in French, and delivered by a scarlet-liveried footman that morning, ran as follows:

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  • "Heavens! what a virulent attack!" replied the prince, not in the least disconcerted by this reception.

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  • He had just entered, wearing an embroidered court uniform, knee breeches, and shoes, and had stars on his breast and a serene expression on his flat face.

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  • "First time I ever saw a pink cat," said Zeb.

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  • This child, who is from the crust of the earth, like yourself, called you a Wizard.

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  • "Nonsense!" said the little man, turning red--although just then a ray of violet sunlight was on his round face.

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  • I go up in a balloon, usually, to draw the crowds to the circus.

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  • "Isn't that a great deal?" she asked, doubtfully.

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  • Then she looked at Zeb, whose face was blue and whose hair was pink, and gave a little laugh that sounded a bit nervous.

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  • Is not a Wizard something like a Sorcerer?

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  • Just then a man came running into the hall and addressed the Prince after making a low bow.

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  • I work for Uncle Bill on his ranch, and he pays me six dollars a month and my board.

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  • The buggy seemed almost new, for it had a shiny top and side curtains.

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  • She was uneasy because she had never been on a plane before.

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  • His birth father already suspected she was a country bumpkin.

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  • I'm going to make myself a sandwich and get back to work.

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  • Are you opposed to a break now and then?

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  • After dressing and freshening up, she found him in the kitchen wolfing down a sandwich.

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  • "Are you afraid of getting fired?" she asked with a grin.

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  • We've got a meeting at two and it's almost one-thirty now.

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  • Waking from her stupor, she blew him a kiss.

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  • No one could deny that Alex was a devoted husband and father.

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  • In a way, Carmen and Alex had adopted a family.

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  • That was a double-edged hurt, though, because Alex adored his adoptive father.

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  • That was when Mary decided to relieve her mind of a troubling thought.

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  • "Tell me, Carmen," Mary said as she dried a dish.

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  • What did you really think when you found out Alex was a Mexican?

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  • I can't imagine what he was thinking to hide a thing like that from you.

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  • He isn't a Mexican.

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  • All I could think about was that I had a living father-in-law.

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  • Carmen rinsed a dish and sighed.

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  • Katie wiped the plate slowly with a dishtowel.

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  • Carmen made a face.

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  • He was such a wonderful person in so many ways.

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  • He had a right to a few quirks.

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  • "It's not a big deal," Carmen said, and launched into another subject.

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  • Alex got a relief when the conversation turned to something else and stayed there for the rest of the evening.

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  • They circled the room twice before a hand reached up and tapped Alex on the shoulder.

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  • He was getting to be quite a handsome young man.

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  • She was only a month into two years old, but she was big for her age.

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  • Such a pleasant day and evening should have ended with a restful night and happy dreams, but it didn't.

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  • That was a no-brainer.

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  • A long sigh escaped her lips as she slid back down under the covers.

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  • She hesitated a moment.

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  • The balmy weather of Thanksgiving Day had given way to a frosty day after.

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  • Thanks to Alex, that chore had been turned into a simple twist of a knob.

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  • The coop was a comfortable 48°F - warm enough to keep the eggs from freezing, but cold enough that the chickens didn't get shocked by the temperature change when they went out of the coop.

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  • A trip back to the house to drop off the eggs revealed a house still silent.

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  • He said it would work for a girl or a boy.

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  • He had been taking care of her for nearly a year now.

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  • Alex met her at the door, a steaming cup of coffee in one hand.

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  • She grabbed the coffee cup and took a sip as she stepped around him.

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  • She stopped in the kitchen when she spotted the skillet of scrambled eggs and a pan of biscuits beside it.

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  • For a few minutes they held on to each other, kissing as if they hadn't seen each other in a week.

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  • He intended it as a joke, but the memory it resurrected was painful.

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  • For her, losing them was painful enough, but losing a mate - that would be agonizing.

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  • That might be true, but there was no point in working at becoming a spendthrift simply because he had money.

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  • In fact, that was a good way to make sure he didn't.

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  • With his return to work, things at the house shifted to a faster pace.

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  • He plopped down in a chair, his intense gaze fixed on her.

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  • She forced a smile.

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  • She was a veritable garden of indecision.

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  • In fact, she had made a different decision about it so many times that his head must be spinning.

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  • "I'm sorry," she said with a sigh.

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  • But I guess if we have, it's no worse than having a child out of wedlock.

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  • We're going to have a baby, not a sin.

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  • I've told myself that a hundred times.

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  • You're going to have a little brother or sister.

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  • They should be doing an ultrasound in a couple of weeks.

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  • Of course, if you prefer, we can wait until you come home from work and make it a fun family event.

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  • "I prefer," he said with a smile.

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  • Did she have a window seat?

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  • She had to move a few things to make room, but that wasn't too hard.

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  • When she glanced at him, he was eyeing her, a wry smile twisting his lips.

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  • A few minutes later his deep voice drifted back down the hall as he discussed something with her.

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  • A few minutes later they all marched in and took their places at the table.

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  • Alex asked with a grin.

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  • I guess that's a good question.

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  • "Maybe we could get a van," Carmen suggested.

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  • I always pictured myself driving a van instead of a truck.

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  • To him, it was no different than artificially inseminating a cow at his clinic... well, the concept wasn't.

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  • Do you want a boy or a girl, Dad?

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  • I already have a son and daughter.

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  • Every child feels displaced to some degree when a new sibling arrives.

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  • Hope that you'll start accepting me as your husband - your mate; not just a lover.

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  • Maybe not, but it would have made a difference if I had known how you felt.

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  • I should get rid of this and buy something a little more feminine.

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  • He lifted a brow.

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  • He had indicated enough times that he would like to see her in something a little more feminine and fashionable.

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  • It wasn't something she would normally do - buying clothes specifically for a trip.

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  • For a moment she struggled with him until something changed in his eyes.

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  • He raised a brow.

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  • She lifted a hand and caressed his cheek.

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  • And yet, in a way, waiting this long might have been an advantage.

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  • They would have some time to enjoy a late Christmas at home when they returned.

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  • They looked a lot alike in some ways.

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  • "After seven, sleepy head," she said with a smile.

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  • You always look neat and clean - even if you are a little out of style.

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  • But you need to pamper yourself a little.

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  • I just didn't see any point in spending money on new clothes when my old ones still had a lot of wear in them.

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  • "It's okay," he said in a flippant tone.

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  • He always looked nice, but normally he would have worn a suit for the occasion.

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  • Alex held out a hand.

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  • When they finally got on the plane, she and Jonathan had a window seat - Jonathan in front of her.

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  • Strong warm fingers touched her hand and a palm slid under hers, forcing her hands apart.

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  • Now he knew what a chicken she was.

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  • Felipa looked to be in her early twenties and had a sunshine smile that made Carmen feel welcome.

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  • Alex had been hiding more than a father.

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  • After they retrieved their luggage, Señor Medena instructed a man to carry it to a white limousine.

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  • Felipa shrugged a shoulder elegantly.

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  • It is a beautiful day, but yesterday it was cold.

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  • I have a mare; and we have a five-year-old mare with a colt, a four year-old filly, and a two-year-old filly... oh, and my mare is going to foal again in January.

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  • We also have a couple of wild asses.

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  • We... actually, I... was thinking about adopting a few wild horses from out west where they have too many.

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  • Maybe he felt excluded - or maybe he simply needed a little encouragement.

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  • Still feeling the sobering effects of that cool regard, she forced a smile.

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  • Maybe a little levity would help.

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  • It was a long time back, before they were married.

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  • Alex shifted a faintly amused gaze to Carmen.

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  • For the remainder of the trip to the ranch, Alex remained in a good mood.

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  • It was a hacienda, not a ranch, and Señor Medena was the patrón.

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  • The three-story building looked big enough to cover a city block.

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  • A wide porch stretched the length of the building, and above it were two balconies with black wrought iron banisters that curved out gracefully.

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  • The porch posts were black metal with a filigree design.

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  • From the foyer, they entered a huge room with a wide staircase that curved gracefully from the balcony on the second floor.

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  • A tall perfectly formed and decorated Christmas tree stood beside the staircase.

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  • His gaze sought Carmen and the sides of his mouth turned up in a warm smile.

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  • Sometimes he even did it when there was a room full of people between them.

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  • Carmen met his gaze for a moment - long enough to reunite, and then they both turned back to the others.

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  • I hope to have a love like yours some day.

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  • Her jet black hair was swept up gracefully into a plaited crown.

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  • Alondra was attractive in a delicate way - her features more refined.

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  • Her dark hair was pulled back severely from a narrow face.

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  • Carmen held out a hand.

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  • Alex smiled down at him in a reassuring way.

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  • Jonathan and Destiny's room had two twin beds in it, as well as a television.

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  • No. Do they ever have a formal dinner?

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  • You could wear a feed sack at a formal dinner and not look underdressed.

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  • I don't want her to wake up in a strange room and not be able to find us.

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  • Someone knocked on the door and when she answered it, a man brought in their luggage.

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  • Do you have a short-sleeved shirt in there for me?

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  • I have a couple of polo shirts, but no light shirts.

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  • That pleased smile was on his lips again and his eyes held a glint of humor.

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  • For a moment she surrendered to his warm lips and secure embrace, clinging to him as her heart stepped up pace.

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  • "I'll lock the door," he said, his lips returning to hers and lingering in a way that made her feel weak.

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  • She handed him a light blue shirt.

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  • The idea of making love in a strange bedroom was disturbing enough, but with only a door between them and the children, locked or not, it didn't feel right.

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  • Alfonso looked to be a year or so older than Jonathan.

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  • This is a fine meal, do you think?

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  • Carmen is a very good cook.

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  • It's just a veterinary clinic.

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  • Jonathan leaned forward so that he had a full view of Señor Medena.

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  • Carmen grabbed a napkin and began wiping the mashed potatoes from her hand.

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  • "You're supposed to eat with a spoon or a fork," she instructed calmly as she finished wiping the little hand.

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  • He put a spoon in her hand.

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  • Carmen shot a glance at Alex, who was giving his meal undue attention.

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  • They call her a gestational carrier.

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  • A test tube baby?

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  • Why is it good when you adopt a baby that isn't yours, but bad if it's yours and you don't give birth to it?

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  • What a horrible thought.

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  • It isn't a dirty...

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  • Having a baby was something they should be excited about - talking about to others.

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  • He rested a hand on her shoulder and sighed, gazing down at her tenderly.

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  • I don't want a shadow hanging over him.

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  • A slow smile spread over his mouth and spilled into his eyes.

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  • Jonathan wants a little brother, not a little sister.

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  • You do realize that if it's a girl, we're going to be unevenly matched.

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  • She rolled over and sat up, but he stopped her with a hand on her arm.

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  • Finally he sat up, a glint of humor in his eyes.

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  • Relief brought a smile to her lips.

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  • As a matter of fact, I did.

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  • Jonathan looked confident atop a Welch gelding.

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  • She urged her mount a safe distance away, motioning for Jonathan to follow.

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  • Felipa kicked her horse into a lope and rode up beside him.

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  • He made a face and stopped his horse.

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  • Not even a year had passed since the stabbing, but he had been doing well.

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  • Normally it was a raised area, dark pink, but now it looked red and angry.

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  • Maybe he should see a doctor.

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  • A touch of humor lurked in Señor Medena's dark eyes, but he continued as if he didn't notice.

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  • Raising a brow, Señor Medena spoke with exaggerated patience.

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  • But I have said they did not know you had a wound.

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  • Señor Medena raised a silver brow.

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  • I have been made acutely aware of that fact since I was a child.

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  • "Carmen," Alex interrupted in a stern tone.

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  • Yeah, a good fight.

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  • Alex looked surprised for a moment and then his lips clamped together firmly.

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  • "Get a life," he answered instantly, his eyes twinkling with mirth.

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  • We saw a baby howse!

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  • "You saw a foal," he corrected.

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  • And we saw a baby howse too!

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  • Christmas was only a few days away, and yet it didn't seem like Christmas.

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  • They would purchase a few things for Christmas tomorrow.

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  • Alex had asked one of the men go into town and rent a car for them.

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  • For a moment they simply looked at each other.

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  • Finally he put a hand on the wall on each side of her head.

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  • Once again he lowered his head, but this time his lips lingered on hers, searching for a response.

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  • "So, shut the door," he said, his voice strained, and drew her into his arms, seeking her lips again in a hungry way.

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  • "I know," he said with a sigh, running fingers through his hair.

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  • The last time he made a business trip to Columbia, he had said they needed the money.

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  • Ultimately it had cost them a child and her ability to have more.

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  • A coloring book and crayons kept her busy while they worked and talked.

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  • Is it a Christmas party?

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  • No, it is a welcome home party - for you and Alex.

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  • But then, a party didn't seem like something Señor Medena would plan.

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  • If she was invited, it was as a guest of Alex, so he would tell her when and if he decided to go.

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  • Maybe Felipa had a love she wasn't sure about.

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  • Carmen drew a slow breath and glanced self-consciously at Dulce and Alondra.

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  • Felipa stared at the wall, deep in thought for a few minutes.

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  • Alondra watched Carmen reflectively for a while and finally spoke.

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  • We both wanted a baby.

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  • She swallowed down a crisp reply.

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  • It is not so good as a baby with your blood?

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  • I don't want to bond with a child only to have it taken away.

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  • For a moment Dulce actually looked sympathetic.

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  • The room was silent for a few minutes after they left.

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  • "Basically, that I require a lot of attention," Carmen said.

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  • Felipa considered the question a moment and then her brows resumed their normal position.

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  • I think Alex makes a concentrated effort to drive his father crazy.

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  • It's almost as if it is a lifetime goal.

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  • Felipa smiled as she expertly tied a big red bow.

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  • Carmen asked, setting a freshly-wrapped present aside.

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  • I want what you have - a husband who loves me - and children.

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  • But I don't know anything about dressing or acting like a lady.

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  • One does not dress or act like a lady.

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  • You are a lady.

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  • Do they resent that your father wants only a son for an heir?

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  • Felipa lifted a steady gaze to Carmen.

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  • If he does not take the inheritance, we will not have a home.

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  • How could he do such a thing to his own children?

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  • After they put all the presents on a table, Felipa finally spoke.

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  • His father was never able to get custody of him as a child.

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  • On the other hand, when the issue finally came to a head, she would have been in the middle of it all anyway.

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  • Still, it could be a lot worse.

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  • If he hadn't hid it from her all this time, it wouldn't be such a shock.

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  • Carmen put a foot on the first step and then heard voices.

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  • As she glanced up, Morino and Alex started down the stairs, the tall lanky foreman taking two at a time.

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  • I'll be back in a little while, sweetheart.

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    0
  • It was nice to hear English spoken without a Spanish accent.

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  • After flipping through a few channels, Carmen decided to take a long bath.

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  • It wasn't the first time she had gone to bed while he was out on a call, but it was the first time she had done so away from home.

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  • For a moment a pang of homesickness engulfed her.

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  • If this was what defined a vacation away from home, she'd just as soon stay at home.

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  • Yeah, I think it's more like a miniature rodeo.

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  • Oh, I was supposed to tell you about a party.

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  • For a moment she lay waiting, and then realized he had fallen asleep.

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  • A few minutes after they left, Felipa arrived with an older woman she introduced simply as Maria.

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  • Then we will all go down together and Maria can get acquainted with her while you are measured for a dress.

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  • You will need a sitter for the party anyway.

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  • Nina waved a hand modestly.

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  • As they approached the building, a large group of people came out whooping and yelling.

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  • True, but her answer left Carmen's stomach tied in a knot.

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  • They rounded the corner of the building to see a group of men lounging against the fence, watching a display that made Carmen's blood run cold.

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  • From there the horse dashed in and out of the poles and came to a stop on his haunches.

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  • How could he do such a thing in front of Jonathan... and where was Jonathan?

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  • Alex handed the reins to a caretaker and dusted himself off as he headed for the gate.

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  • Alex obliged and then the four of them continued to a lot where some horses grazed.

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  • Alex pointed at a white horse prancing along the fence.

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  • To me, a beautiful horse is one that looks friendly.

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  • "It's over here," Jonathan said, leading them toward a large shed.

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  • They admired the new foal and a few other horses.

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  • On the way back to the house, Alex offered to take them to the gulf for a family outing.

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  • A stop for lunch and then a drive over the biggest bridge Carmen had ever seen - and then they were in Galveston.

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  • The architecture was fantastic, but not near as exciting as the ride on a ferry.

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  • Now it seemed more like a vacation.

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  • Remembering what Felipa had said about the girls being out of a home if Alex refused the inheritance, she smiled.

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  • Alex shot her a stern look and she made a face.

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  • Dulce said I want a lot.

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  • Do me a favor and don't listen to Dulce.

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  • "Whew," he said with a grin.

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  • For a minute there, I thought I was getting forgetful.

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  • Carmen couldn't make out more than a few words, but one of them was mare.

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  • You've been a very good girl.

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  • A friend, certainly, but their relationship was also romantic so best friend didn't seem like a good description.

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  • "Yes. I couldn't find a better friend than Alex, could I?" she said.

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  • His response was a warm smile.

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  • Well, whatever we do, I'd like to do it as a family.

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    0
  • "A little," she said.

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  • Now his father was putting a damper on it with his all consuming, self-serving plots.

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  • Alex laid a hand on her arm.

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  • Carmen made a ball out of a pair of socks.

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  • It made a safe ball that didn't go far, which was perfect for Destiny.

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    0
  • Jonathan found a stick larger on one end than the other to use for a bat.

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    0
  • Señor Medena came out and watched for a while.

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    0
  • Felipa was wearing a perky red satin gown with spaghetti straps and full skirt.

    0
    0
  • She is such a good seamstress.

    0
    0
  • But then, maybe Alondra was one of those people who simply took a long time to warm to strangers.

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  • Nina returned with a dress made of dark purple velvet and satin.

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    0
  • "What a waste," Nina said.

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    0
  • They sat her in front of a mirror while Felipa worked.

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  • You have a very pretty neck.

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  • Taking a deep breath, Carmen started down the stairs.

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  • For a moment she almost panicked.

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  • And then he stepped forward, looking elegant in a dark tuxedo.

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  • A live band started playing a waltz and he dropped a hand to her waist.

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  • For a minute there I thought you were going to bolt and run.

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  • For a minute there, I was ready to do just that.

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  • It was a strange thing for a man to say.

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  • Maybe that was what made him such a good salesman in the past.

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  • Most girls wanted to be a princess at some point in their youth, though she couldn't specifically remember that wish.

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  • A tall young man tapped his shoulder and Alex surrendered her to the second dance of the evening.

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  • It was a good thing he found it so amusing.

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  • Alex was busy talking to a lady with a low-cut bodice.

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  • A soft southern voice drawled behind her.

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  • He looked to be about her age and his blond hair was neatly combed into a fashionable style.

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  • She rested one hand on his upper arm and surrendered her other to a hand that engulfed hers.

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    0
  • I was a little surprised at the invitation.

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    0
  • I'm just a country hick myself.

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    0
  • I used to work with Alex as a Jr.

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    0
  • Gerald made a face.

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    0
  • He was so tall there was a vast difference in their height.

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    0
  • Truthfully, Gerald wasn't all that good a dancer.

    0
    0
  • Somehow that was a relief.

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    0
  • His mouth twisted into a wry smile.

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    0
  • "Alex seems to be doing well," he said after a long pause.

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    0
  • I couldn't even imagine him in a comma.

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  • She smiled up at him, feeling a sudden need for levity.

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  • They danced for a few minutes in comfortable silence, and finally he spoke again.

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    0
  • I never thought of him as being anything else but a salesman until I saw him tonight, but he seems so... comfortable now.

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  • Strange how such a placid moment could stir up such emotional turmoil.

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  • He always wanted to be a veterinarian.

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  • I guess the only thing he wanted more than that was a good woman and children.

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    0
  • It was a pleasure to meet you.

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  • He turned and walked away, his head nearly a foot above the others.

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  • For a moment she watched them gracefully move across the room - totally in sync.

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  • Alondra smiled up at him in a way that suggested their relationship went farther than employment extended.

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  • Dulce appeared at Carmen's side, dressed in a dark blue gown with a high collar.

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  • She made a face.

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  • When Carmen's gaze returned to Dulce, the woman had a smug smile on her lips.

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  • People passing between them were a blur.

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    0
  • Confidence returned with a warm rush.

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  • Dulce regarded her reflectively for a moment longer and then walked away without saying another word.

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  • Something about the way Felipa was smiling up at him suggested she was anticipating a good night kiss.

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  • A strong hand grabbed Carmen's arm as the band started another song.

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  • He had loved a singer, but he had married the farmer's daughter.

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  • For a moment her heart beat overtime and it looked as though she might fall, but Alex smoothly caught her and stepped around, covering her fumbling so well that no one appeared to notice.

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  • She made a face at him.

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  • He just turned twenty-one and he thinks he is a man now.

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  • Well, that explained a lot about him.

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  • He was a junior salesman.

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  • She lifted a brow.

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  • When the band took a break, Carmen was looking for something cool to drink.

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  • Someone offered her a glass of punch.

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  • It was far too sweet and had a bitter aftertaste.

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  • Alex raised a brow.

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  • I guess I wasn't very polite, making a face like that.

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  • "Yuck," he said barely above a whisper.

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    0
  • They mingled with the guests a little longer and then Carmen excused herself.

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  • Even as tired as she was, his arms were a welcome haven.

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  • "Wait a minute," she said again.

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  • For a moment he looked confused, and then turned away.

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  • The way he acted tonight was a little too much like he did when he came home from the hospital.

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  • He didn't sound like he had a cold.

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  • She rubbed a sore spot in her lower back.

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  • "Someone must have spiked my punch," he said, running a hand through his hair.

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  • His lips covered hers in a long warm kiss that left her short of breath.

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  • The subject was how Mary had been a vessel to carry the son of god.

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  • Well... I guess so, in a way.

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  • Dulce motioned to Carmen from a hallway, so Carmen told Alex to take the children up and she would be up shortly.

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  • Dulce handed Carmen a picture, her face a study of emotion, but her lips revealing nothing.

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  • It was a picture taken at the party and the focus was on Carmen and Alex.

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  • Carmen was looking at someone behind the camera and Alex was looking at a girl who stood about five feet from him.

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  • "Thank you," Carmen said as if it were a gift.

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  • A spiked drink might seem harmless, but if a person was taking certain prescription drugs, it could be dangerous.

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  • Perhaps it was a foolish thing to do.

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  • Dulce stared at her for a moment, as if considering it for the first time.

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  • "He'd have a cow," Carmen said.

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  • "A little," Carmen responded, "but I suppose that's natural, given our relationship.

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  • Carmen found Alex relaxing in a chair next to the bed in their room.

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  • Maybe she thinks it's a miss-match for you.

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  • She tossed the picture in his lap again and made a face.

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  • There was a lot at stake.

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  • I didn't realize what a mess it was.

    0
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  • He ran a hand through his hair.

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  • I don't want to put the girls out of a home.

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  • Even a bird is smart enough to push the fledgling out of the nest when it fails to fly on its own.

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  • No one is guaranteed a free ride.

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  • Carmen remained quiet for a few minutes, allowing him to think about it.

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  • You have set aside the money for a college education.

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  • A slow smile worked its way across his face and into his eyes.

    0
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  • I know life would have been a lot simpler for me.

    0
    0
  • But a lot more complicated for the other two, maybe.

    0
    0
  • Obviously your father has a brother or a sister.

    0
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  • It was a good thing they didn't change after church, because everyone at the table was dressed as if going to church.

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  • Alondra was still a big question mark, but her gut said no to that idea too.

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  • This came in by currier a few minutes ago, sir.

    0
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  • Marked on it in bold letters were the words "Baby A" and "Baby B".

    0
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  • "It could be a girl and a boy?" she asked hopefully.

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  • When you bring the babies home, can I come stay with you for a while and help take care of them?

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  • Dropping off home-cooked meals was a very nice gesture.

    0
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  • With the photos in her hands, the fertilized eggs were a thing of the past.

    0
    0
  • It's a strange feeling.

    0
    0
  • It's not a decision or a wish any more.

    0
    0
  • It's a reality - like morning sickness.

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  • When you want a baby so bad, the first morning of sickness is a blessing.

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  • From that point on it was a nightmare.

    0
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  • The ultra sound photo brought back a vivid memory of Alex watching the screen as the baby moved in her womb.

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  • A chair scraped next to her and Alex swore softly under his breath.

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  • It will be different this time, he said, cuddling her against his chest as if she were a child.

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  • If he had simply ignored her, she might have been able to get her emotions under control, but now a sob threatened so convincingly that she was afraid to breathe.

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  • "I did not know," Felipa said in a voice that sounded stricken.

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  • "I'm OK," she said in a voice saturated with tears.

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  • Just give me a minute.

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  • In a quiet room with no one looking on, she managed to get her emotions under control by focusing on Destiny.

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  • Alondra walked into the room with some tissues and a damp rag.

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  • "I thought you might need these," she said, handing the rag to Carmen and setting the box of tissues on a small table beside her.

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  • Carmen wiped Destiny's face and eyes with the cool rag and used a tissue to wipe her nose.

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