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Old 03-06-2015, 08:12 PM   #1
Bevatoria
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Fortunate Timing (closed for cbelle02)

It was a beautiful day along the beach in Los Angeles, California; even for a place that was known for it's wonderful weather, today seemed like a particularly welcoming day. Occasional honks from passing seagulls were the only breaks in what looked like a serene, calm scene as the sun beat down on the many different people who walked, lied down, or swam along the coastal beach. There were many different people from different walks of life here; some who were fortunate enough to live here, some who were here on what would be the only vacation they would take that year. Some in between. But whether they were laughing in conversation, sitting quietly, whether they were kids running around on the wet sand or adults floating serenely in the water, it was all good. Fun. Peaceful. But all in all, it was good vibes from everyone. That was what happened in this part of the city; people came here to relax. To enjoy themselves.

But that picture was a lie. One not easily seen in Corey Tolver's eyes, even behind the shades he wore to block out the sun. It wasn't the people around him that were bothering him. He had intentionally tried to find and isolated part of the beach to relax in, but it was far too busy for this time of year (or any time, really) to get true isolation. Not here. Truth be told, he would have gone somewhere else if that was what he was really after...and right now, as he sat up from lying down, his forearms resting on his knees as he watched the people walk, some swimming some distance away...no, it wasn't the people here who were bothering him. Not really.

It was who wasn't here. His ex-girlfriend, the one who was supposed to be taking this trip down here with him, the one who had left him hurting, disappointed, conveniently after he'd brought the non-refundable plane tickets, hotel reservations, everything for a week in the sun. Twenty eight years of life had not taught him entirely about handling disappointment, but he knew well enough that if something wasn't working - as being alone with his thoughts definitely wasn't - then he'd have to try something else.

Corey got up from his towel that he'd laid out on the sand, looking at the guy next to him. His 'neighbor' was a persian named Antonio, slightly older then him, and had struck up a conversation with him about cards and poker when he'd seen the shades Corey was wearing. Corey was an amateur poker player, and the two had talked some strategy before their talk had died in the heat and the desire to nap a bit in the sun. "Watch my stuff?" He asked, and Antonio nodded dazedly, a hat over his face. Corey nodded, subtly sliding the shades he'd been wearing into a pocket on his swimsuit - he didn't trust Antonio *that* much. Everything valuable was on his person; the key to his room and said shades in a zipped up pocket. The only things on his towel were some sunscreen, a few bucks in a throwaway wallet, the sandals he was currently slipping off of his feet and the towel itself. If someone wanted to nab those because Antonio was napping, they could damn well help themselves to them. Cheap bastards.

Right now Corey needed to get away, to move. He was an avid jogger, and enjoyed swimming although he could never bring himself to do so in an indoor poor regularly. His dark red swim trunks swished loosely around his thighs (he'd always preferred them loose; the muscles in his legs didn't need any flattering), and his hand idly stroked his cheek, where a bit of stubble had started to build up from not shaving.

After a minute or two of walking, what had been a relatively isolated section of the beach gave way to even more privacy, and soon he was in the water. Up to his ankles, knees, and then to his hips as he started to submerge himself in the cool liquid. Corey dunked himself fully in the water, closing his eyes as he went under, swimming out a little bit before reaching down to find his footing, and his slim, fit torso glistened with the water as he stood up to look around a bit. At just over six feet, if he went out much further he wouldn't be able to see above the water line.

But for the moment, he'd found some solace, even as in said solace he looked to see if there was anyone else around. To his west, some distance away in the water, the waves were much more active, challenging. Not really for swimming, he knew, but some people liked to surf in it. He strained his eyesight to see if anyone was challenging those particular waves today.
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Old 03-07-2015, 05:04 PM   #2
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The white sandy beach, illuminated by the bright sun, littered with people, umbrellas, and beach towels was a familiar sight for Natalie Fletcher. She reveled in the sounds of the waves crashing into the shore, the laughter of the kids playing and running in the sand, and the seagulls hovering near the water. She came here every summer, usually with friends, but this time, she'd brought Jared.

She'd been in a up and down, on again/off again, fairly tumultuous relationship with Jared since senior year of college. 4 years of this roller coaster ride had worn her down and she was hoping that maybe this time together could help them resolve their issues for good. She was 26 years old and she knew that it was time to either work it out or move the fuck on. She wasn't sure she wanted to do either. Their time together at the beach was already not working out as planned. After a fight in the hotel last night, today they'd gone their separate ways. She wanted to get some beach time and surf the waves, he was probably somewhere fishing or drinking. Tonight, he'd probably have some wine and dine move that always worked on her. That's how it always went.

Surfing was one of her favorite hobbies. Being out on the water, nothing but herself and the waves, was therapeutic. She didn't think about anything or anyone else. Sure, she wasn't a pro, only having the chance a few weeks every summer, but she loved it still. Today was a perfect day to catch a wave. She knew the best spot on the beach, away from the crowds, nearly secluded except for a scattering of other surfers here and there. The sky was still mostly clear except for a few clouds in the distance. A storm was probably brewing for later in the evening, meaning the waves were a little higher and fiercer than usual, but not too challenging. Perfect.

She'd been out on the surf for about an hour, catching waves and riding them in. She was thinking about heading back when she felt the swell of what she knew was going to be a huge wave. And it was. It was bigger than any she'd ridden in a long time. But she caught it, perfectly. God, it felt good. But then, maybe it was stronger than she realized, maybe her foot slipped, she'd never really know.

But then she was tumbling, caught in the powerful wave, her surfboard flying from under her, the overwhelming dominance of the water pushing her under. She tried to use what experience she had to right herself again, but the water was too strong. She flailed, choked on water, and then the surfboard flew up, knocking her hard in the head, disorienting her at first, but then the blackness crept in and she was nothing more than a ragdoll at the mercy of the ocean.
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Old 03-08-2015, 07:07 PM   #3
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Admittedly, Corey hadn't thought much of the eye surgery he'd had early last year, but the way he quickly caught sight of a surfer challenging what looked like a fairly rough wave had him thankful he'd splurged. It had meant this vacation had been put off until now, but now he could enjoy things effortlessly, without wondering what he was seeing. Even with as far away as he was, he could tell it was a female surfer, and he strained to get a better look at her. He involuntarily floated a bit closer, eventually getting far enough into the water that he had to start treading.

Later on, he wouldn't know if that made the difference, as he ended up going several metres before he saw it. Or, more specifically, saw a big wave that he wondered how she'd handle. Which he got his answer to when he saw her board flip up, sending her off of it. Corey tensed a bit, wondering if that happened to surfers all of the time...and then peered to see her flailing in the water, followed by the board catching her in the head.

That probably wasn't something that happened all of the time....

He looked around instinctively, wanting to see if one of the lifeguards was on the way, but his adrenaline rose and he thrust himself forward, swimming as fast as he could towards the dwindling, but still dangerous wave. He peeked up to see her surfboard, hopeful that it would give a relative idea of where she was, but he had to try. There was no waiting for someone else to save the day, and Corey, while not a 'good person', was one hell of a swimmer.

It was that skill that made what felt like minutes of churning in the water much less in actual reality as he hefted the board before grabbing the surfer's arm. Her wetsuit had made her relatively buoyant and he tucked one arm under her shoulder, ignoring the feel of what were clearly fit muscles as he made for the shore, being careful to keep her above water. Someone else had also spotted what had happened, as a fellow surfer rode in and grabbed her board, giving Corey a nod.

Somehow, he made it all the way to the shore with no sign of a lifeguard, and while Corey could see one running in the distance, he couldn't wait as he put the surfer on her back in the sandy shore. "Hey, you with me?" He said gently, just confirming that she was indeed unconscious A few people had gathered, apparently all of them realizing what was going on, and Corey leaned in again, feeling for her pulse.

"C'mon...you there?"

Even with the gravity of the moment - and with the blonde, female lifeguard close by now - Corey couldn't help but wonder what color the surfer's eyes were. The lifeguard arrived, apparently having just finished talking into her walkie-talkie to get the paramedics, and Corey obligingly shifted out of the way, still looking down at her.

She didn't even have a name yet. And if she didn't get revived, she might not have one in his mind. Just surfer girl. Peaceful, serene surfer girl, as the lifeguard started to work on her...
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Old 03-09-2015, 01:48 AM   #4
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Natalie felt strange, floating in and out of consciousness as her body was wracked by the waves. She was vaguely aware of her body moving out of the choppy water but the darkness overtook her again before she could fully process.

"Hey, you with me?" Words floated around her, as if through a very distant tunnel. "Come on, you there?" But they were just words that made little sense and she had no capability of responding. She opened her eyes, the man's face coming into view, focusing briefly, before she faded out again.

The lifeguard finally reached her, motioning for her rescuer, whom she was unaware of, to move aside. The woman took his place, checking for a pulse and finding a faint one. She took position over Natalie, pressing on her cheeks and jaw to open her mouth fully. In her semi consciousness, Natalie had been struggling to breathe through the water, but now she wasn't breathing at all.

The lifeguard began the CPR process, pumping Natalie's chest then breathing into her mouth. She kept this up until Natalie choked up water, coughing and sputtering. She wasn't in the clear yet though, but at least she was breathing again.

Natalie again could hear mumbled voices, and her eyes fluttered open long enough to see the blond over her and the man on the other side of her. She wanted to thank him, but she couldn't form words. In the distance, sirens wailed as an ambulance approached.

She heard a name briefly "Corey" but everything was so foggy. She couldn't really process everything that was going on. Then she was out again.

The ambulance arrived and loaded Natalie in. She arrived at the hospital, where she was subject to multiple scans, tests, and procedures. Though she recovered, it wasn't an easy ordeal.

The next few days were a blur but her condition improved from critical to stable. Jared had been notified and he'd stayed by her side most of the time, though she was rarely aware he was there. Even as she recovered and regained most of her faculties, the memories of the accident were vague. Except for the man's face. It was the one thing that stood clear as day in her mind. She'd never forget it.

The doctors told her that she was lucky. It took her more than a month to fully recover, but if not for the man who had pulled her from the water, she may have never recovered at all. Or worse, she may have been left with brain damage that would have affected her the rest of her life. No, if not for the man's quick actions, things would have been a lot worse. Natalie knew she'd probably never see the man again, but she hoped that he knew he'd saved her life. And that she was eternally grateful.

The summer passed. The accident gave Natalie a new lease on life. She broke up with Jared, for good. She took a job in a new city, wanting to start fresh. Moving had been a pain, but here she was, finally settled and today was her first day on the job.

Natalie dressed in a black skirt, a white button down and a black blazer. She thought she looked pretty sharp. After adding heels, a pearl necklace and earrings, she checked herself out once before heading out the door. Though she was in office gear, the tone in her legs and arms were still evident. She stood only 5'5 but the heels made her a few inches taller. Her long brown hair was perfectly straight and hung down her shoulders. She smiled at her reflection then headed to the office.
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Old 03-09-2015, 11:12 PM   #5
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It wasn't as if the experience of saving someone's life was a bad one, but Corey was more then a little jarred after watching the lifeguard save the surfer's life....finally, after a few hard breaths and pumps, it appeared she was breathing again. He smiled a bit, but was still more then a little rattled as the lifeguard turned to him with the wailing of ambulance sirens in the distance. "You'll have to make a quick statement...what's your name?"

"Corey. Corey Tolver." He managed to get out, standing up slowly as he looked down on the breathing, but still barely alive, young woman. He could swear he saw her eyes flicker, but that could mean anything. The paramedics arrived, and Corey sadly followed the lifeguard away, leaving one lingering glance at the woman only known as 'surfer' in his head as he walked away. Had events went a little differently, if he'd met her any other way, maybe...he felt like he'd lost something, and yet, he barely even knew her. Only what she looked like, and that she apparently liked surfing. Hell, he didn't even have her name.

What did that make him?

**************

Several months later, waiting idly in the small meeting room, he wasn't thinking about the surfer girl who's life he'd saved. Although he certainly was thinking about getting away; the firm he worked at had gone through some rough times lately. Their boss, Adrianna - a pretty, short, forty year old blonde with long hair who took no gruff from anyone - was a firm but fair woman who cut through the bullshit when it came to how she thought about you. She was standing near the head of the table, facing the ten people in their department. They'd lost one person recently, and after being asked to 'absorb' his functions, recently another junior associate had been walked out the door one day, no questions asked. The empty seats around the boardroom table were a little daunting, and Corey found himself scratching the back of his neck, feeling his body warm in his dark grey pants and blue button up shirt. Adrianna wasn't pacing, simply standing stoically in her maroon jacket, slacks, and pink blouse.

Then, the door opened. Fred, who was their HR guy, walked in...and it took every muscle in Corey's body not to gasp at who it was. "Ah, welcome." Adrianna smiled, striding over to shake the new person's hand.... "Everyone, please welcome Natalie to the team."

He tried to look away, but his eyes met hers for just a moment...and through the muttered 'welcomes' and 'hellos' as Fred motioned her towards her seat, Corey was grateful nobody was looking at him.

"I'm sorry to say that, although we did hire one replacement, that we won't be getting anyone else anytime soon...you all know how our budget is at the moment, and with the economy the way it is..." started Adrianna, and Corey strained to pay attention to her, and not dart his head towards the right side of the room. How was she here?
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Old 03-10-2015, 12:19 PM   #6
cbelle02
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Natalie had the usual first day jitters but she was excited to be starting this new job in a new city. She arrived at the office, first going to the HR office. She met with Fred, the head of HR and her new boss, Adrianna. Fred was a gently plump older man, with a mustache that reminder her of Tom Selleck. Adrianna was short and blond, but held herself in a confident, dominating stature. They both seemed very pleasant, though.

In the office, Adrianna went over her job description again. The woman didn't sugar coat that there would be a lot of work to do and Natalie respected that. Most jobs she'd had glazed over what she'd actually be doing and she ended up getting the shit end of the stick. Adrianna, however, made her aware of what she'd be doing, the fact that she was replacing multiple associates, but that she would make an effort to ensure that all employees were towing an equal line. Like a lot of other companies, economical downfall has made it's mark and she wasn't afraid to admit that. Evidently, Adrianna felt that it was better to weed out those that weren't up for the work than to waste time and money on those that couldn't hack it.

Natalie liked Adrianna. She seemed like a person that wouldn't put up with bullshit, but was overall a genuinely congenial person. After going over a few more details, Adrianna left, but not before reminding her to attend the meeting at 9.

After she was gone, Fred discussed a few more details with Natalie before finishing up the last of her paperwork. After they finished, the time was approaching 9am so Fred dropped her off in the meeting room. He opened the door and Natalie was met with a small sea of faces.

"Ah, welcome." Adrianna said with a smile. She had clearly been waiting for her to start. She shook her hand and turned to the group "Everyone, please welcome Natalie to the team."

Natalie scanned the faces, giving a small wave. Her eyes moved past a young man at the far end of the table. Then flickered back to him. She didn't quite know why she recognized that face. But it set a sudden rush of emotion inside her. A feeling of gratitude. She brushed it aside but even as everyone said hello and welcomed her, and she smiled to each one gratefully, her eyes kept floating back to him.

Adrianna was explaining to the group about budgets and reasons for only hiring one new associate, but Natalie was still struggling with why this guy affected her so much.

After Adrianna finished her spiel, she took it upon herself to introduce everyone to Natalie. She tried to pay attention to everyone's name, Elaine, Joshua, Rick, Jude....but she was interested in the mystery guy's name.

"Corey." Adrianna said, and the rest of the names were forgotten. She forced a smile, hoping that the fact she was screaming inside wasn't evident on her face. Corey. She recalled clearly now, hearing that name as she lay on the sand. The sound of his name brought it all back and suddenly the picture she'd carried in her head for so long after the accident came back in a flash. After a couple months, most of the accident and the thoughts of her rescuer had faded. Until now.

The doctors had told her she was alive because of him. He was her rescuer, the man that had saved her life and here he was in the same room with her again. Adrianna showed her to her seat, nearly directly across from her savior. She couldn't explain how she felt in the moment, except that the only reason she was even here, in this room, was because of the man across the table from her.

Adrianna was at the head of the room, talking again, presenting number and strategies. Natalie struggled to pay attention, to take notes, to offer suggestions of her own throughout the meeting. But all she really wanted was to be alone with that man, to tell him how thankful she was. But what would she say? How could she accurately express her gratitude to a man who had given her another chance at life? She didn't even know if he would remember who she was.

An hour later, Adrianna dismissed the meeting. Was now her chance? Then her boss spoke again. "Alright, let's get back to work people. But first, I need someone to give Natalie a quick tour of the building." Natalie's heard skipped as she looked right at Corey, hoping he would volunteer.
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Old 03-14-2015, 02:00 AM   #7
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Being one of the few single guys (or at least one of the few who many of the office ladies dared consider 'eligible'), Carter could feel more then Natalie's eyes on him when the question came up. And, truth be told, he couldn't entirely blame them, even as he'd been distracted and intensely focused on the meeting at the same time. The details of the meeting all blurred together, but the young woman sitting across from the table had occupied his attention even as he'd tried to strike a balance between not looking at her and tossing an occasional glance her way so it didn't look like he was intentionally avoiding her. People were perceptive, especially coworkers, and any slight, imagined or otherwise, would be noticed and discreetly discussed.

In this case, they'd have his motivations at least partially wrong. He was attracted to her, too, had been when he'd seen her surfing...but during the whole meeting he knew this was coming. That they'd have to say hi eventually, and that their 'first' encounter would come up. It had to. He'd seen just enough of the look in her eyes to know that she knew he was her rescuer...and that she could tell he knew he'd rescued her, too. Saved her life.

Corey looked around for a beat, seeing nobody immediately volunteer before nodding at his boss. "I'll take her around. Show her the lay of the land and all that." His tone was even, businesslike, and betrayed none of the inner struggle that was going through his head at the moment. For her part, Adrianna was too busy to argue, and simply nodded.

"Okay. Jesse will be by in half an hour to get her set up on our systems, so don't take too long..."

Corey tried not to respond about how their IT people - especially Jesse - tended to be slow off the draw no matter how much notice they had, but knew this wasn't the time to press it. Behind the veneer of civility and professionalism there was a lot of stress, and truth be told Corey was grateful for the chance to change up his routine, even if it was just for a few minutes, to show Natalie around a bit. That, and as he got up, lingering a bit as his coworkers left the room so he could shuffle Natalie around in private, he got the distinct feeling that her presence her was about to complicate things in ways he could never imagine.

"Okay. Follow me..." His gaze lingered on her a bit as he didn't think about how well her outfit molded to her fit body, or about how impeccably she was dressed. His eyes betrayed the fact that he wanted to talk, but not here. Corey didn't want any prying ears when they finally discussed...whatever it was they needed to talk about.

Past the meeting room, a couple of doors down, was a corner office. "This is Paul's office. The big cheese. We don't see him much, but when he's in, this is where he operates." The door had a golden nameplate: PAUL OXENHAM. "He'll probably be by to see you at some point this week." A few people walked by them, going to and fro about their business, and Corey nodded to who he could, a few stopping to introduce themselves; folks from other departments. A number that was getting less and less, Corey thought sadly, as he walked by a few cubicles and open office spaces. Accounting, HR, investigations. All things that would be useful information.

They walked by where her desk was - clearly marked 'Natalie' - and Corey couldn't help but notice that she was fairly close to his. As it should be, given that they were in the same group...but at least she was out of eyesight. Mostly. Well, he was pretty tall, and if he peered over his area at the right angle....no. No more distractions. He motioned out an exit, down the hallway out of their office; they shared this building with other companies, as it happened a lot in spaces like these. "Bathroom's thataway, which I'm sure you saw when you came in."

They walked along the far wall, and Corey tapped a large, clear jug, which jiggled as he walked by the water cooler. "This is where the gossip happens." He chuckled. "And it's also on the way to the most important part of our office...the kitchen." They walked into the kitchen/break room, where several circular stables sat with chairs around them, a microwave, two fridges with freezers, and an obnoxiously large marble counter top. Or at least it was now with how they'd been cut in size over the last year or so...

"Be careful with the toaster." Corey could feel himself deflecting now, as he tapped the large, black electrical device. "Thing burns easily if you leave it..." He'd shown her around the building now, the good parts, the clean (for now) floor, walls, the silent kitchen. With nobody listening in. Corey leaned back against the wall, shuffling, uneasy. "Don't think there's anything else..."

There was, but it wasn't related to work, and after a beat he closed the gap between them, looking down at her. Dropping his veneer for a moment, and any pretense that he had no idea who she was.

"So..." Several opening lines came to mind - how've you been, what happened, I'm glad you're okay, why are you- "...didn't expect to see you here."

Another beat. "I mean..."
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Old 03-14-2015, 11:16 AM   #8
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"I'll take her around." Corey said and Natalie let go of the breath she hadn't realized she was holding. He and Adrianna said a few more words, but she didn't hear them. A duel sense of relief and nervous anticipation fell over her. He was an ordinary, albeit very attractive, man but as she got closer to him, her heart pounded as though she were in the presence a divine being. He was her savior, of sorts.

She hoped her smile looked normal and not idiotic as she followed him out of the room. She became keenly aware of the distance between them as they walked, suddenly not sure if she was walking too close or too far or if she should be behind him or next to him. The tour felt like a ruse, like it was just putting off the inevitable, whatever the inevitable was.

What would she say, or do? None of the options that kept running repeatedly through her mind during the tour seemed appropriate enough for the situation. He did most of the talking and she remained quiet, feeling like her first words should be more than just a comment on the office layout.

Natalie's eyes kept moving back to his face as they walked and she hoped she didn't look like a staring twit. Or that the building didn't have random pillars she might run into. Because that's what she needed, to knock herself out and have him rescue her again. He would definitely grow tired of saving her and understandably avoid her after that. She forced herself to keep a closer watch in front of her after that.

They finally reached the break area. Thankfully, it was empty. They were alone. Alone. Natalie's nervousness increased 3-fold and she bit her lip as she looked around. He kept talking, giving her tidbits of information about what seemed like every appliance in the kitchen. He was stalling, she knew. Could he be as nervous as she was?

He leaned against the counter for a moment, then pushed himself up to step closer to her. Natalie inhaled quickly as he looked down at her. She met his eyes, her green ones flickering with excitement, curiosity, gratitude.

It felt like minutes before he spoke, an almost tangible build up of tension could be felt between them, even though it couldn't have been more than mere seconds.

"So..." He started, "didn't expect to see you here." He paused, as if realizing how that sounded. "I mean..."

Maybe it was the tension, the nervousness she felt, the anticipation...she didn't know why. But she laughed. Uncontrollably. For several moments, nearly doubling over. She finally caught her breath, holding her stomach, her face flushed with embarrassment.

"I'm sorry." She apologized. "That's not...how I'd planned for this to go. It's just that... you said you didn't expect to see me and..." She giggled again, but recovered quickly this time. "And the last time you saw me, I was nearly dead so of course you didn't expect to see me because I was probably dead!" It was absurd, she knew, and not exactly funny, but she couldn't help it.

She took a deep breath. "Oh God..." She whispered. "I look like an idiot. You saved my life and I'm just an idiot. You saved a moron." She'd remained quiet during the entire tour of the building, just to save the perfect words and now she couldn't stop jabbering and none of it was right!

Natalie closed her eyes briefly, as if that would give her a free do-over. She opened them and looked up at Corey again. "Ok...So...I just need to...thank you..." She started, her voice softer now. "I mean, thank you isn't enough but...they told me in the hospital that if you hadn't been there, and gotten me out of the water when you did...I probably wouldn't have survived, or at best I would probably not have been much more than a vegetable. I never thought I'd see you again, to get the chance to tell you this. But here you are and I have to tell you that I am so very eternally grateful. You have no idea."

Natalie stepped back from him then. She'd wanted to touch him, to make sure he was real, to take his hands as she spoke, but she'd kept her hands to herself, not wanting to push too far so soon. Her eyes raised to his to check his reaction.
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Old 03-16-2015, 10:34 PM   #9
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In response to his seeming vulnerability, Corey got the last response he expected. Well, aside from her starting to choke on something, which could have made it twice he'd saved her from a life threatening situation. She laughed. Surfer girl - check that, Natalie, his coworker now - laughed. He smiled uneasily, unsure of how to react while she continued. For longer then seemed polite, and he shifted a bit on his feet, looking away briefly before she finally stopped, a blush on her face and her breathing heavy as she tried to catch herself.

"I'm sorry. That's not...how I'd planned for this to go. It's just that... you said you didn't expect to see me and..." There was a break in her statement as she seemed to try and fail to stifle a giggle. "And the last time you saw me, I was nearly dead so of course you didn't expect to see me because I was probably dead!"

"...yeah..." That was certainly one way of looking at it. After a breath, it seemed his companion made the same connection and stopped, muttering something softly; the emptiness of the kitchen made the words just catch his listening ear. "Oh God... I look like an idiot. You saved my life and I'm just an idiot. You saved a moron."

Corey held his hands up. "You've obviously been through a lot. I think you're being too harsh on yourself." Hell, the only difference between him and her at the moment was that he had restrained himself a bit...and in a way, she was being braver. She was the one new to the company, barely knowing him, and while her words were...unfocused...they were at least coming out. He had a million thoughts going through his head, and he watched her close her eyes for a moment before looking at him again.

"Ok...So...I just need to...thank you..." Natalie started; and for his part, Corey moved in a bit closer at the softness of her voice. "I mean, thank you isn't enough but...they told me in the hospital that if you hadn't been there, and gotten me out of the water when you did...I probably wouldn't have survived, or at best I would probably not have been much more than a vegetable. I never thought I'd see you again, to get the chance to tell you this. But here you are and I have to tell you that I am so very eternally grateful. You have no idea."

She stepped back from him, as if sensing part of the chord that the words had struck in him. They were meaningful, heart felt, words of gratitude and appreciation, and even as Corey felt warmth and affirmation flowing from her into him, he also felt something else. Corey looked away, wanting to collect himself as he considered her words.

...I am so very eternally grateful. You have no idea...

"Yeah." The word felt useless, reactive out of his mouth, and he tried to chuckle, take some of the seriousness out of the fog that had descended on the room. "I just did..." What anyone would have done? What any decent human being would do in his place? What he felt was right? Whether any of that was true or not wasn't the point. The point was that he knew that trivializing what he had done for her would not only push her away, but it would also leave him wondering what might have been. What could have been, had he met her any other way.

"...well, I'm glad I was there." His smile got a bit easier, speaking truths even as his words didn't tell everything. Corey looked at her again, feeling a bit of anger and frustration that he had to meet her here. Not on the beach, not even at the hospital where she'd been recovering (he'd left on a flight away two days later, needing to get back home). "Right place, right time, huh?"

In more ways then one. Corey had no idea that she wanted to take his hands, and in a way he wanted to do the same. Run his hand on her shoulder and arm, reassure her, try to calm her down. Whether that would be appropriate in a social setting was one thing, but this was altogether something else. They were coworkers now, and if this went beyond friendship...

...beyond friendship? Why was his mind going there already, when they'd only exchanged a few dozen words? He looked at her again; only a few seconds had passed, and as much as he needed to get back to work (and her, really, to work)...he didn't want to leave it here. Not with a 'don't mention it' after having saved her life. Not with him feeling so lonely, so detached after he'd saved her those months ago, and with her being so 'grateful'...if they weren't at work, he might've been a bit more direct, but as it was, Corey knew he had to be subtle. Workplace relationships beyond the platonic were frowned upon, and with the market the way it was his employers could most certainly get away with it.

"Well..." He started, moving towards her. "... I hope that any gratitude you get to show me is not quite so, well, life or death." He'd take her saving his life, of course, but that would deprive her of the chance to show how she really felt.

Or of how she might feel. Corey almost reached out for her hand, but stopped, meeting her gaze instead.
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Old 03-17-2015, 02:18 PM   #10
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"...well, I'm glad I was there." He'd said. "Right place, right time, huh?" She found his accompanying smile cute. He was being modest and had no clue the impact of what he'd done had on her.

"It's more than that. You could have hesitated, swam slower, but you did exactly what needed to be done to help me. You gave me a new life, Corey. I turned it around. I dumped my dead beat boyfriend, moved to a new city, got a great job...which all brought me back here. And to you. Coincidence?"

Natalie had never believed in fate, destiny, miracles, or any of that mumbo jumbo, but this all seemed pretty damned close. Was she meant to meet up with him again? That was ridiculous. But here she was anyway. And she'd been given a second chance at life, as well as a second chance to thank the one who'd made that happen. For all she knew, that would be it. He'd accept her appreciation and they'd move on, go about their lives as coworkers and nothing more. But that didn't feel right.

"I hope that any gratitude you get to show me is not quite so, well, life or death." He said, moving closer to her. She looked up into his eyes. "I hope not, but just so you know, I would. " She promised. "I...nothing short of that could ever come close to repaying you, but I need to try."

The last few words came out almost in a pleading manner. She did need to try. Someone was responsible for her life. That warranted more than a simple thank you.

"Maybe I could start by buying you lunch today..." She offered. It wasn't much, but it was the first thing she could think of. Before he could answer, they heard footsteps and looked up as another coworker rounded the corner into the room. She stepped back the moment suddenly broken.

"I guess we should get to work then. " She tried to hide any disappointment in her voice, but pushed away from the counter with a smile.

And so the day pushed on. Natalie tried to concentrate on her work, but she couldn't get Corey off her mind. Mid morning, she left her desk and went back to the break room. She prepared herself a cup of coffee. Then, one for Corey too. She wasn't sure exactly how he took his coffee but hoped he'd accept it all the same. Returning back to the office, she walked to his desk.

"I...got you a coffee." She said simply when he looked up, offering the cup to him.
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Old 03-18-2015, 01:12 AM   #11
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"I hope not, but just so you know, I would. I...nothing short of that could ever come close to repaying you, but I need to try."

He looked down, a little surge of something resembling modesty swelling up within him at her words; he was almost taken aback by how devoted she seemed to making up her 'debt', at least on the surface. He took a breath, shrugging as he wasn't sure what to say. Natalie beat him to it, though.

"Maybe I could start by buying you lunch today..."

Corey couldn't quite bite back the smirk that came to his face as he tried to remember the last time he took his full lunch hour. She could buy him lunch, of course, and he wouldn't say no, but something in him said that he needed to be with her, not just take her favors as piece meal, that whatever she did had to be active, engaged with him somehow. Part of her payback had to involve her being there, and as he tried to respond, someone came in, and the moment broke.

"I guess we should get to work then. " She said, and even though they barely knew each other, Corey knew she was disappointed Truth be told, so was he, although he kept a smile on his face until he was out of the room, before he let out a breath. Out of whatever world they'd been in, and back to the grind.

A mindless, soulless grind, a stream or reports and client issues unending until close to eleven o'clock, his eyes starting to feel the strain as he rubbed them. A familiar smell tickled his nose, and he could have groaned; that was what was missing as he turned away from his desk. A fresh, steaming cup of-

"I...got you a coffee."

Although he knew he'd seen her in his peripheral vision before hearing her, in his mind her voice came first, and Corey took the cup of brew appreciatively. "Thanks." Seeing that she had one of her own, he let a smile briefly linger on his face as he sniffed the rejuvenating beverage. "I'm a one cream, one sugar guy." He said with no hint of condescension or lack of appreciation of what she'd done; it was a kind gesture, and he hoped his tone would indicate as much. Having her here was a welcoming balm, both to break up what had been a tedious morning for him, save his little tour of the office...

...he sipped the brown liquid, hiding his eyes as they ran up her skirt clad legs briefly, enjoying how strong they were, how well her clothes framed her fit, slim body. Corey knew he might've gotten caught, and wanted to hide the moment of physical attraction with words. "So, about that lunch you suggested..."

A beat passed before he responded. "I've got lunch meetings for a lot of the next week." Mostly excuses to cut his lunch hour but he wasn't about to say that. "I like the idea of meeting outside of work for something like this..." The 'repayment' she seemed so eager to give. "Keep it separate from our working relationship."

As if they could do anything like that. The two were already intermingled whether they liked it or not.
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Old 03-18-2015, 11:44 AM   #12
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Their fingers brushed briefly when he took the coffee from her and she felt a small spark of electricity from the touch. “Thanks.” He said with a small smile and she was happy he was pleased with her gesture. “I’m a one cream, one sugar guy.” He told her after taking a whiff of the brew.

“Noted. This one will be just a little sweeter than you’re used to then, I used two sugars.” She wished she’d asked his preference beforehand but had wanted to surprise him. He seemed to be grateful for the coffee anyway and she didn’t take any offense to his comment. But she would remember it exactly for next time.

She watched him sip the coffee and took notice of his eyes gazing at her over the lid of the cup. She could feel herself blush and was about to excuse herself when he spoke again. “So, about that lunch you suggested…”

Natalie raised her eyebrows, hoping he wasn’t going to reject the idea. He hadn’t said yes before…

“I’ve got lunch meetings for a lot of next week.” He explained and she tried to hide the sinking feeling she felt, thinking he was going to either completely dismiss the idea or put it off inevitably. “Oh, that’s-“ She began but he continued. “I like the idea of meeting outside of work for something like this…”

“Oh…” She nodded. “Ok…” Outside of work? She liked that idea. It would give her more room and more time to properly make it up to him, as opposed to being refined to the workplace. She wanted to share the lunch with him. Seeing his pleasure with her after she gave him the coffee was a good feeling. A feeling she could get used to. So, sharing the lunch with him, seeing that appreciation again, she would know she’d succeeded in some small way.

“Keep it separate from our working relationship.” He finished.

“Yeah…that makes sense.” She agreed. “I think that would be better.” To be honest, she really wanted a chance to get to know him better, as well, to know what this man that she owed her life to was all about. She thought a moment. “Are you free on Saturday?” She asked finally. “If not lunch, maybe dinner? I could take you out or I could cook. Whichever you prefer.”

God, she hoped he didn’t think she was too forward, or that she was hinting toward a date. Because that’s not what this was about. Was it? Did she want it to be? No. No, this wasn’t about her. It was simply repaying a debt. That’s all. Right?
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Old 03-19-2015, 01:32 AM   #13
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“Yeah…that makes sense. I think that would be better.” Corey smiled, feeling a bit of the tension lessen, his posture relaxing in his chair. "Just to take a bit of the pressure off." He continued. He almost said 'this is pretty quick' but it had been months since he'd saved her life . This wasn't some young thing smitten with him after one night of getting to think about her rescuer; she'd had time to think things through. They both did. That was why the slight warmth of her fingers brushing his when he'd taken the mug from her was definitely not lingering on his hand, or in his head. And why the silence lingered between them again; Corey wasn't sure what to say to continue the conversation.

“Are you free on Saturday? If not lunch, maybe dinner? I could take you out or I could cook. Whichever you prefer.” Natalie seemed to be anxiously awaiting his decision, and while the thought of her cooking for him (or maybe going to so much trouble just for him) was more then enticing, part of him also wanted to get a chance to talk to her as well. And that would be easier to do if she wasn't puttering around in a kitchen, to say nothing of making it less intimate, less pressure. Colleagues could go to a restaurant without having it assumed they were being more then friends, going to someone's home sent another message entirely.

Although Corey wasn't sure who he was afraid of sending the message to. "Yeah, I'm free." He had been planning on meeting a friend of his for lunch and a trip to the climbing wall, but now had only laundry, cleaning, and other 'adult' stuff to do....and no date. Which wasn't what this was.

Albeit not entirely for the reasons anyone would think. But there was still the second part of her question, lingering as he weighed between the intimacy of going to her home and the comfort of a restaurant, where there'd be some distance, ability to talk and relax...it'd be easier on him, and on her, if likely not cheaper.

"Dinner sounds good." Okay, one part of the question. "And I wouldn't want you to do anything too fancy on my account..." Not a direct answer, as that could mean either, whether it was her going to a lot of trouble or simply a statement about how pricey it was to eat out anywhere. "How about I come over to your place? Save the cost of trying to go somewhere on a Saturday night..." He started, measuring her reaction.

Part of him wanted to say she didn't have to do this, but he said nothing, feeling almost...eager...to test her servitude, to enjoy her wanting to make it up to him, please him...even her giving him coffee had started to make him wonder.
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Old 03-19-2015, 12:35 PM   #14
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"Yeah, I'm free." He said and Natalie felt her heart beat a little faster. Why? She asked herself. She told herself she was just grateful for the opportunity. Nothing more. They'd just really met each other! There was nothing going on here except doing something nice for the guy who'd saved her. That was all.

"Dinner sounds good."
He continued. She didn't know how he'd react to her offer of cooking for him, inviting him into her home. Was that weird? Too soon? Too date-like?
"How about I come over to your place? Save the cost of trying to go somewhere on a Saturday night..." He said, as if reading her thoughts. His tone was casual, amiable. That put her at ease. But still, something about the thought of this attractive savior in her house on a Saturday evening...

"Ok, well, great! It's a--a plan!" She fumbled but grinned at him. She'd almost said date instead of plan. Though she didn't mean it as a date date, she didn't want to give him that impression or scare him away. "What would you like to eat?" She asked. "Whatever it is, I'll make it. I've got a little bit of kitchen talent." She smiled, hoping she didn't come across as too vain. She made a mental note of his response and nodded. "Alright, well i'll just get back to work then."

The conversation ended and she went back to her desk. The rest of the week went by painfully slow. Natalie was looking forward to Saturday and trying to keep a balance of professionalism at work, while still finding little ways to do whatever she could for Corey. She would offer to fax or copy for him occasionally, provide notes for a meeting he'd missed, and of course bring his cup of coffee every morning, 1 cream, 1 sugar. Other than the coffee, which could just be a friendly gesture, all of it was work stuff that she'd get paid to do anyway. So, it wasn't that big of a deal, right? But the more she did for him, the more she wanted to do. Seeing the man happy and pleased was like a high. They kept their relationship professional. They hadn't talked outside of work, or anything other than brief conversations. But there was a tension growing between them that Natalie couldn't describe. It was almost tangible, like, something waiting in the wings. Saturday maybe?

Saturday finally came. She'd given Corey her number and address the day before and they'd agreed on 7 pm. Earlier, she'd debated with herself about what to wear. She wanted to look nice, but not too nice. This wasn't, after all, a date. She wondered vaguely what he'd want her to wear. Finally, she'd chosen a pair of dark denim jeans that hugged her curves and a black sleeveless top.

The closer the clock on her kitchen wall clicked to 7, the more nervous Natalie felt. Dinner would be nearly done by then. She tried to time it that way so he wouldn't have to wait long to eat. The nervousness stemmed from hoping that he would like what she'd made. That was all. It had nothing to do with finally being alone with him. Nothing at all.
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Old 03-20-2015, 12:42 AM   #15
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"Ok, well, great! It's a--a plan!" They both knew the word that almost came out, and that was in a way the one Corey and Natalie wanted to hear anyways. But they were both figuring out what 'exactly' this was, a little uncertainty in their conversations and interactions was to be expected, especially with how the two of them had met. Not as coworkers, but as one person saving another's life, the most intimate of encounters between people who'd barely known each other. The silence hung between them before Natalie continued.

"What would you like to eat? Whatever it is, I'll make it. I've got a little bit of kitchen talent." Corey considered himself about the same in the kitchen, and he looked down for a moment, her..eagerness to please him warming in more ways then one. It was pleasant, but it also pulled at a part of him that had awoken earlier when she'd expressed her desire to make it up to him. But he knew the answer immediately, it was one dish that he'd never been able to quite get down himself, and he met her gaze.

"Chicken stir fry over rice." He responded. "I either screw up the rice, or cook the veggies too long, or the chicken not enough..." he shrugged. "Can't go wrong with chicken, peppers, snow peas, onions..." He looked up at her, wondering what was going through her head as she thought it over, seeming to commit the dish to memory.

"Alright, well i'll just get back to work then."

That was the end of that encounter, although far from their week. Corey immediately tried to push the thought of their meeting far into his head so he could concentrate on his work for the week...a rather ominous omen in that regard came when his gaze lingered on Natalie's firm backside as she walked away.

And it was nice of her to show up a lot in his part of the office, having coffee for him - one cream and sugar - offering to do little favors for him when she just happened to pass by. Corey wondered if Natalie was that pleasant to everyone, the newbie wanting to fit in by being incredibly helpful.

At least, that was what he told himself as it became more apparent that she seemed to have a subtle infatuation with him. What interested him wasn't any kind of resistance to the idea; every time she got him something, he told himself he'd make it up to her, and not even subconsciously hold his 'debt' over her head like some sort of vice or hanging noose...and yet he continued to let her help him, do little things every day and enjoy it each time. Forestalling the 'next time' she did something soon became looking forward to it, and a part of his mind wondering how far he could push it if he really wanted...

Corey's thoughts were more on what she'd be wearing, too, as all of his sights of her so far had been either in business wear with form fitting blouses, skirts, and heels; knowing that likely wouldn't be the case tonight made him wonder for a moment if he should have had them go somewhere fancy. But there was pressure on him, too, not to make this any more then it was; just her doing something kind for the man who'd saved her life. Nothing more. Corey threw on a dark blue button down shirt - short sleeved both to be a bit more casual and in acquiescence to the heat, he told himself, and not to show off his forearms - to go with dark grey slacks that he wouldn't wear at work unless it was casual day.

Not too serious, he told himself as he made his way to her door, hitting the doorbell just before sevenand waiting for Natalie to answer Upon seeing her, he relaxed, not entirely certainly what greeting was appropriate. A hug was too intimate, a handshake too casual, but he had to do something so she wouldn't see his eyes running over her bare arms, or on how her jeans almost seemed painted on to her fit legs....and seeing her hair loose wasn't helping either.

"Hey." He said, walking into her home. "Smells good." He gave a sniff of the air, and then hefted the brown bag in his other hand. "I didn't feel entirely right eating your food without bringing something, so I brought some wine...hope that's okay..."
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Old 03-20-2015, 11:46 PM   #16
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Natalie was rather proud of how the dinner was turning out. She'd gone out earlier in the day to shop for all the ingredients she needed, wanting to make sure everything was fresh. The rice was perfect, the veggies at just the right stage of tenderness, the chicken juicy, and the spices were blended well. She only hoped that Corey would think it was a delicious as she did. What if he didn't like it? It would seem like a failure on her part. She tried not to worry about that, but it still lingered in the back of her mind.

The knock on the door sent a surge of excitement through Natalie and she wiped off her hands and moved to the door. She took a breath before opening it wide with a grin. "Hey!" She wanted to hug him, but he seemed to hold back so she didn't take the initiative. Maybe that was not appropriate. She hoped it would be soon. She took a moment to take in his appearance. He'd looked attractive in his work suits but was somehow moreso in the more casual attire. Until now, she didn't realize that forearms could be considered sexy, but the subtle way the muscles flexed as he held the bag and the slight bulge of his biceps peeking under the edge of the sleeves made her a little weak in the knees.

She cleared her throat and made her eyes meet his again. "Come on in!" She swung the door open wider and stepped back to let him in.

The entrance was into a small foyer that led into her living room. The kitchen was to the right. The house was well furnished, decorated with various artworks on the walls, large bookshelves, and photos of friends and family. A fireplace stood along the wall of the living room.

"Smells good." He said, and held out a brown bag. "I didn't feel entirely right eating your food without bringing something, so I brought some wine...hope that's okay..."

"You didn't have to bring anything, but that was very thoughtful! Thank you!" She took the bag from him, happy that the food was pleasing to his senses. "You should feel every bit right, by the way. This is all my gift to you. But I'll never complain about receiving wine. Unless...this is your ulterior motive to get me drunk and take advantage of my generosity," she teased, raising an eyebrow. "I mean, not... how that sounds." She grimaced and turned to lead him into the living room. Out of his sight, she rolled her eyes. Did she really just say that, for fuck's sake?

"You can have a seat if you'd like. Dinner is almost ready. I"ll get you some coffee while you wait." She told him, walking back into the kitchen. She returned momentarily with the cup of brew.

The dining room off the kitchen held a medium sized table, which she'd already set. She had debated for longer than was probably necessary whether they would sit across from each other or at the end and side. She'd finally settled on the latter, which was so that they could hear each other better and not so that they'd be closer of course.

The setting was two plates on top of red place mats, napkins, and silverware. Natalie had almost put out candles for 'decoration' but decided at the last minute that would be too date-y. She put the wine in the fridge to chill and placed two wine glasses on the table.

The kitchen was open to the living room and she was able to see him and hold conversation even as she finished up. They made small talk about work and little things in their lives. They effectively avoided the subject of her rescue.

Once everything was done, Natalie took the food to the table. Grabbing the wine from the fridge, she popped it open and filled the glasses she'd set out halfway. Going back into the living room, she touched Corey's should. "Dinner is ready!" She said with a grin. "Come on! I hope you like it."

Last edited by cbelle02 : 03-20-2015 at 11:48 PM.
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Old 03-21-2015, 12:05 PM   #17
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"You didn't have to bring anything, but that was very thoughtful! Thank you!"

The moment caught in the air as both of the seemed unsure of what to do next. He couldn't help noticing her roaming gaze around his figure, which he got a bit of a kick out of; guys liked being looked at, too. Corey's eyes rested on her a bit as she took the wine, hoping their interactions would be less forced then they'd been so far. He'd always felt a bit awkward around Natalie due to the fact he'd seen her in a very vulnerable state, but her response didn't help ease that tension.

"You should feel every bit right, by the way. This is all my gift to you. But I'll never complain about receiving wine. Unless...this is your ulterior motive to get me drunk and take advantage of my generosity,"

He had no problem with the first half of it - that was why he was here, to accept her gift - but the second portion made him smile a bit sheepishly. Corey was no suave gentleman (even as he'd been told more then once that he looked like one, especially in dark suits), but he had honestly bought the wine as a friendly gesture. No ill intentions...even as his mind wondered for a moment how he might 'take advantage' of her. She had a nice body, and it he couldn't help but wonder what it looked like under her-

"I mean, not... how that sounds."

"Of course not." Corey responded, his small laugh a bit forced. "It's all good." The response seemed to diffuse the moment as Natalie continued into the kitchen.

"You can have a seat if you'd like. Dinner is almost ready. I"ll get you some coffee while you wait." He nodded as he moved to take a seat on the couch; not wanting her to think he was here just for dinner. This should be a pleasant evening for friends, two adults getting to know each other, even if it had only come about due to the fact he'd saved her life. Normally, he wouldn't think about seeing someone at work like this, and not for the first time, Corey wondered how their relationship would have developed differently if he'd met her any other way. Not on the beach, saving her life. Not at work as coworkers, where workplace relationships weren't strictly prohibited even as a few couples who had developed strangely found themselves reassigned...assuming they were lucky.

Even as they conversed while she was finishing up dinner, his mind wondered why he was focusing so much thought on her. Natalie was attractive and smart, which were two things any decent man liked in a woman, and yet, all of Corey's thoughts about her took a high note when he thought about her doing things for him. Making it up to him because he'd been a good guy. He knew part of it was because he'd been single for a while, and his dates hadn't gone well; he longed for some sort of intimacy, which was why his gazes on her lingered a bit, or drifted downwards across her torso and ass when she wasn't looking, or turned around...

A brief moment of silence - when Corey had finished a story about one of his sisters kids - was quickly answered as he saw Natalie come into the room with purpose, her and moving to his shoulder.

"Dinner is ready Come on! I hope you like it."

He got up slowly, not eager to lose the contact of her hand on his shoulder even as it slipped away eventually, and moved to the end of the table to take his seat. Corey noticed again with some pleasure that she was sitting next to him, and not across; he liked the idea of her being close to him, and as he took in the scene again a thought occurred to him about why he didn't hug her earlier.

A hug meant they were friends, and it was becoming abundantly clear to him that he wanted to get to know her more...Corey didn't want to just be Natalie's friend. It was more then just physical attraction, he knew, and he let another smile cross his face as he took in the food. "Looks great." It smelt great, too, but he'd already said that, and he took his utensils, making sure Natalie did the same before he dug in.

Their chatter lessened, but Corey took a moment near the beginning of the meal to raise his glass. "Just a quick toast." He still didn't want to bring it up directly, and the more he thought about it, the more he realized talking about the rescue would make in tangible, real to both of them, and maybe allow them to draw 'limits' around what it meant to both of them. But if he kept it vague, uncertain as to what it meant, then maybe 'this' could continue. That the tension that lingered between them could stay, and be allowed to grow into something entirely different.

"To fortunate timing." His eyes met hers, his expression softening for just a moment as he moved his glass a bit. "And being in the right place at the right time." Sure, it was clear what he meant, but as long as he didn't mention it, he could be talking about anything, right?

He smiled a bit, again, his left hand moving to squeeze of hers briefly in reassurance. "I'm glad I'm here right now." He clinked his glass against hers, and took a bit of a sip of his wine. There was no way to really bring the moment back down, but he knew that conversation would eventually get it there.

"Man, I wish I could make rice like this...for all of the other things I do in the kitchen, even with a rice cooker I always seem to screw it up."

Was it a transparent attempt to hide the fact that something else was starting to grow between them, beneath the surface? Sure. But as long as the tension stayed back there, in the air even as neither of them acknowledged it, then it could grow and faster into whatever they wanted it to be. And Corey had a feeling that Natalie would be happy if it was what Corey wanted...
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Old 03-22-2015, 03:44 PM   #18
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As Natalie sat down in her seat, her knee lightly brushed Corey's under the table. It was a simple, accidental touch but like every bit of physical contact she had with Corey, she was keenly aware of it. She didn't know why every little graze, no matter how big or small, accidental or deliberate, sent little tingles through her. Sure, he was good looking, and he'd saved her life, but currently, he was only her coworker and nothing more. So, why such a visceral reaction? Did she want something more?

"Looks great." Corey said and she beamed with blushing pride. The two chatted a bit more until Corey raised his glass. "Just a quick toast."

Natalie looked at him curiously, wondering where he was going with the toast. Somehow, she felt the next few moments hemmed on what he was about to say. "To fortunate timing." He said finally and met her eyes. The look they shared indicated they both knew what he meant, but if they didn't broach the subject forthright, then they could leave interpretation open. "And being in the right place at the right time." He finished.

Natalie smiled softly, never breaking eye contact. Though nothing more was mentioned, the reassuring squeeze of her hand that followed, said everything that was needed at the moment. She didn't need to say any more of how appreciative she was, but she knew she would spend the rest of her life showing it, if necessary. The realization almost startled her. The rest of her life? They'd just really met! Yet, she was still holding onto his hand. She let go quickly and averted her eyes, but his next words drew them back.

"I'm glad I'm here right now." He said softly and they clinked glasses. Natalie nodded and sipped her wine. Though inside, the words had her heart fluttering, outwardly she simply smiled. "I'm really glad you're here right now too." She told him. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

"Man, I wish I could make rice like this...for all of the other things I do in the kitchen, even with a rice cooker I always seem to screw it up." He said, after a brief pause. Natalie cleared her throat, the mood change abrupt, nearly forced.

"Well, maybe I could show you how I do it next time. We can compare notes and see what you're doing differently." She hoped it didn't come off as condescending, but only as a sincere gesture to help.

They finished their meal, keeping to safe topics, but learning a lot about each other by the end. They'd finished a couple glasses of wine and Natalie started clearing the table, insisting he stay seated. She put the dishes in the sink. She didn't want the night to end just yet, but wasn't sure if it was appropriate to ask him to stay longer.

"Another glass of wine for dessert?" She asked, pouring the glasses full. Somewhere, underneath the friendly gesture, she was subconsciously trying to keep him there longer by waiting for the alcohol to wear off, but outwardly, it was another way of pleasing him.

Near the end of the glass, in another lull in conversation, she touched his shoulder. Her inhibitions slightly lowered from the alcohol, she blurted out. "I meant what I said earlier. I'm really glad you are here and that I had this opportunity to do this for you. It makes me very happy that I've succeeded in pleasing you. You deserve it. It's a small drop in the bucket comparatively, but...you being happy makes me happy. I just thought you should know that." She dropped back, her hand falling to her lap. "And...I hope this isn't the last time we do this." She admitted. That didn't have to mean anything other than they should hang out again. It was ok to say, she reasoned. It didn't suggest anything other than friendship, right?
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Old 03-22-2015, 11:26 PM   #19
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"Well, maybe I could show you how I do it next time. We can compare notes and see what you're doing differently." Corey couldn't help but laugh a little at the comment, shaking his head ruefully at himself. "I think it's a mental block more then a physical one. I can do almost anything else - not that I'm a master chef or anything - but for whatever reason something always seems to slip my mind on rice." He shrugged. "Maybe it's like having a purple thumb at gardening." On that particular skill, he held out no hope for himself and basically grew as little as possible in terms of fresh food. Yes, it was great, but only when other people did it.

Their talking was fruitful, even semi-animated at time, but Corey couldn't help but feel that they were both skirting around...something. This was the kind of things normal adults talked about; friends, family, work, hobbies, interests, how bad one was at cooking rice, but this was for people in normal relationships. Maybe that was the pretense of what was happening here, but it would not be the result of it. Whatever they had, whatever it became, could not be normal. Never be. He'd saved her life, kept her from dying and every one of their interactions would be laced with that.

"Another glass of wine for dessert?"

Even the wine. Corey nodded, knowing full well that having another glass would keep him here for another couple of hours or longer, and he found himself lingering on the longer part. She obviously wanted him to stay, and she needn't have bothered with any pretense. He was enjoying this, and sat back a little in the chair as they continued to talk; soon, they were both near the end of their glasses

Another glass would be impossible, both for practical reasons and personal ones. Practically, the bottle he bought didn't have much left. Personally, he wasn't about to impose on her that he would stay the night, as accepting as they both seemed to be of the possibility at the moment, especially as Natalie spoke again, touching his shoulder. "I meant what I said earlier. I'm really glad you are here and that I had this opportunity to do this for you. It makes me very happy that I've succeeded in pleasing you. You deserve it. It's a small drop in the bucket comparatively, but...you being happy makes me happy. I just thought you should know that." He missed the subtle warmth of her hand on his shoulder as she pulled away. "And...I hope this isn't the last time we do this."

Corey looked away for a moment, Natalie's outpouring of emotion almost catching him off guard. Hearing her warm sentiments was one thing, but the way she said that you being happy makes me happy sent a chill through him. A good one, as he smirked a bit. "Well, I can't speak as to what the long term future holds, but right now I'd really like to stay a while." He got up out of the chair, stretching a bit. "The booze in my system will need a couple of hours to settle, so why don't we make ourselves a bit more comfortable?" He motioned to the living room, thinking that the couch would make easier reclining and settling in, fully aware of the overtones of the two of them sitting closely together.

And he didn't need lowered inhibitions to think it was a good idea. If anything, he embraced whatever might come out of their evening, and any little bit he could do to push it forward was welcome. He placed his wine glass on the coffee table before sitting down on the couch, his gaze staying on Natalie longer then it had before as she settled into her seat, a silence hanging in the air for a moment as the table seemed to pause the conversation. Another laugh came out of him as he looked up, feeling his senses dulling a bit. "Been a while since I've drank that much wine. The last time...." The joy left his voice was he remembered the last time he'd had that much wine, and he went somber for a bit, remembering it was with his ex, and while the night itself had been great, the memories of such were not so now.

"...well." He smiled again, a sad smile as he turned towards the person so gratefully hosting him. "You're much better company then the last person I went out with." With a mental shrug, he decided to go all the way. "Kinder, a better cook, funnier..." His eyes stayed on her hungrily. "...more attractive.." A relative judgment, to be sure, but the more Corey saw of Natalie, the better he thought of her in many ways, and the wine helped his looks become more blatant, and less discreet.

Corey's expression sobered a bit, but not negatively; only in the serious turn the evening seemed to be taking, as he thought about what it'd feel like to run his hands down her bare arms; through her hair...his eyes would give him away if the silence didn't.

Not that he was trying to hide anything.
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Old 03-23-2015, 12:00 PM   #20
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He wanted to stay. A while. Those words made Natalie smile. She didn’t know what she’d expected, that maybe he’d want to take her offering and leave. But of course not, he’d seemed to be enjoying this as much as she was. Regardless of the fact that any ordinary conversation between the two felt slightly like a farce, under pretense that this was perfectly within the realm of normalcy, they’d both obviously enjoyed the other’s company.

"The booze in my system will need a couple of hours to settle, so why don't we make ourselves a bit more comfortable?” He said, the request completely fitting for the situation, yet Natalie couldn’t help but sense something…else…in his tone. Natalie nodded.

“That’s a good idea.” She replied, her gaze falling on him as he stretched for a moment, muscles flexing subtly. For a brief moment, she pictured running her fingers over those biceps curling around them as he braced himself over...No. Not an appropriate time to get lost in fantasy.

She followed him into the living room where he took a seat on one end of the couch. Natalie hesitated, tempted to sit next to him. Instead, she sat in a chair near the couch, facing the end of the coffee table. Sitting next to him held the danger of transforming this…whatever this was…into something that it clearly wasn’t.

They shared a moment’s silence and Natalie could feel his gaze on her, slightly more than a casual glance. She could feel heat flushing her body, disrupted by his sudden laugh.

"Been a while since I've drank that much wine. The last time...." He was saying, but then his laugh faded into a frown. Concerned, she leaned forward a bit to place a comforting hand on his knee. She wouldn’t say anything, waiting for him to continue when he was ready.

"...well…” he began again, a slight melancholy behind the smile that formed on his face. She squeezed his knee gently. "You're much better company then the last person I went out with." He finished.

Went out with. Those words flashed through her head as she let her hand drop from his knee. Went out with. Was he implying that they were ‘going out?’ No…it was just a slip of the tongue, meant only to convey the relationship with the last person he drank wine with, not theirs. But she could feel his eyes on her again, his gaze more intense.

“Well, I’m sorry to have dredged up any bad memories, but I’m glad to have made a better impression on you. “ She smiled, trying to keep the conversation light.

But he continued, "Kinder, a better cook, funnier..." that gaze stayed on her and she met his eyes. They flared with such voracity, it almost startled her. "...more attractive…" he finished and she felt herself flush hotly.

Still…he could compliment her objectively, right? It didn’t have to mean anything. If it were just the words, Natalie would be inclined to believe that. But his eyes…that gaze had a way of piercing her, making her feel the heat all the way into the pit of her stomach, and lower if she were honest. It was normal though, right? The two of them shared an intimate connection more powerful than any friendship, relationship, or sexual encounter. Of course they’d want to be close, she rationalized. It didn’t mean they had to be.

“I…well, thank you. You’re making me blush.” She said finally, laughing lightly, still maintaining her futile efforts to keep up the pretense. Move. She thought. Extract yourself and everything will go back to normal.

She stood up suddenly. “Why don’t we have some coffee to help sober up?” Her voice was a little strained but hopefully he wouldn’t notice. “Can I get you anything while I’m up?” She asked as she moved past him, making an effort not to look at him.
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Old 03-23-2015, 07:15 PM   #21
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Corey would normally have wondered if he'd stepped over a line with his last statement hanging in the air like that, but he'd admit now that it wasn't just the amount of wine talking. He wasn't a light drinker, and was fully aware of what he'd said, and the affect it could have on Natalie...he liked the idea of her being a little unsettled, not at ease. “I…well, thank you. You’re making me blush.” He only inclined his head, his eyes staying on her as he took in every bit of her reaction; her body would tell more then her voice would anyways, and he wasn't about to hide how much he liked looking at her. How much he liked watching her think, decide, how he liked watching he do almost anything. It was probably why she'd taken up surfing, Corey thought.

He watched as she abruptly rose from her seat. “Why don’t we have some coffee to help sober up?” Her tone had changed a bit, but while concerning, that wasn't an immediate concern for him; it had been a good evening, and they were still getting to know each other. “Can I get you anything while I’m up?”

The fact she didn't look at him when she walked past was what made his heart drop a bit. It either meant she wasn't as comfortable with him as she'd been before, or it meant that her thoughts were somewhere else entirely. Still, Corey knew better then to dwell too much on what he didn't know, and he shook his head reflexively even as he knew she wouldn't see it; it was still too close to the meal to reasonably ask for anything else to munch on. "Coffee would be great." It was like how she'd sat on the chair instead of next to him on the couch; the hesitation gave away that she'd at least thought about sharing it with him. An immediate plop into a chair meant she'd have decided already that they were just 'friends', but it didn't take a psychic to know she was into him. Corey had caught Natalie staring (knowing full well it meant that there were other times he hadn't); it gave him as much of an ego boost as he hoped his longing glances gave her.

As she made the coffee, Corey looked back over his shoulder towards the kitchen, not wanting the silence to linger, and for either one of them to think too much, least of all him. "You remember how I like it, right?" He teased; she'd gotten one for him every day at work. And that was only one thing he wanted her thinking about as he spoke towards the kitchen one more time before the coffee finished.

"So you've had a little time to settle in now, having newly moved to this area and all. Is there anything you're missing?" His innocent question had potentially devious undertones as he continued. "I mean, I've lived around here a while, so if you're ever lacking in something that you want..." He could be talking about a gym, a grocery store that had logical parking alignment, a mall with decent selection...

...or something else, as he leaned back into the couch.
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Old 03-23-2015, 10:34 PM   #22
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Natalie felt Corey's eyes following her as she walked past. She liked how he looked at her, not just a leering look but an intense gaze that studied her, as if memorizing every bit of her body, her actions, her expressions. She didn't know if he was aware of how that gaze affected her but she tried to shake it aside as she moved into the kitchen to make another pot of coffee.

"You remember how I like it, right?" He called into the kitchen and she smirked. The mood seemed to lighten again. "Yeah, I think so....two cream, two sugars, and a splash of milk right?" She teased him, shooting him a grin over her shoulder. "Don't worry, I got this. I know exactly how you like it." She raised an eyebrow at him then giggled to herself at the innuendo.

She was pouring the coffee when he spoke again. "So you've had a little time to settle in now, having newly moved to this area and all. Is there anything you're missing?"


Natalie looked at him curiously as she returned, handing him a mug. She sat down again, but this time on the couch, not next to him but somewhere between the middle and the opposite end, facing him. The words he spoke were innocent, but the possible connotations may or may not have been.

"I mean, I've lived around here a while, so if you're ever lacking in something that you want..." He finished. She nodded slowly, her mind flashing with many things she wanted at that moment.

"Well...honestly...I'm grateful for all the things that I do have, considering if things had happened differently...I could have far less." She averted her eyes briefly. She didn't like to think about what might have been. "So, in a way, everything I have, you've given me. It wouldn't seem right to ask you for anything more." She met his eyes again as she finished speaking. "No matter how badly I wanted or needed it."

It sounded irrational, and maybe it was. He was just offering to assist the new girl in town. But somehow, she knew she'd always feel indebted. Maybe that's why she shied away from any slight nudge in the direction of anything more than friendship. If that was something she wanted...would it be selfish to impose what she wanted onto him? When he'd already done so much for her? She knew rationally, that it was unrealistic to think that way, but she couldn't control her subconscious.

Natalie sighed. "I know that probably doesn't make much sense. But I can't help how I feel."
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Old 03-24-2015, 12:06 AM   #23
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Corey saw Natalie's pause, and wondered what it meant. She definitely wasn't telling him everything, although he didn't take it as an ominous sign. Her response surprised him a bit, it was a refreshingly upbeat viewpoint, although one that made sense the more Corey thought about it. "Well...honestly...I'm grateful for all the things that I do have, considering if things had happened differently...I could have far less." Natalie looked away, and Corey found himself doing the same as she continued. "So, in a way, everything I have, you've given me. It wouldn't seem right to ask you for anything more." Seeing her look up, he did the same. "No matter how badly I wanted or needed it."

He shrugged; the idea of her owing him everything was a tantalizing one from more then one perspective. "Just trying to return some of the kindness you've shown me." said Corey quietly, sipping his coffee. "Don't mean to make you feel bad." And that was true. There were things he wanted to make her feel, but the mood in the room seemed dour, the tension now a weight on their interaction rather then adding a spark of uncertainty.

Natalie sighed. "I know that probably doesn't make much sense. But I can't help how I feel."

He couldn't help how he felt, too, and Corey tried to hide his frustration in that moment. Why did they have to work together? Why couldn't he have just met her after surfing normally? He wasn't angry he'd saved her life; quite the opposite, as he met her gaze again, but if he'd just gotten a normal chance to get to know her....

...then he'd just have to take advantage of the chance he did have. Another small smile. "It doesn't have to make sense, Natalie." He looked away before turning back to her. "Just to you." He reached out, placing a hand on her bare shoulder in a comforting gesture.

"But I'll keep in mind to let you know when I want you around." He teased, hinting at her not being willing to ask for what she wanted...and his intention to make it clear what it was he wanted. As he pulled his hand away, he was thinking of a lot of things he 'wanted'...but he knew better then to indulge every one of his instincts.

Soon, the evening disappeared and the coffee had taken enough effect for him to drive home. "Well, thanks for supper, coffee, the conversation...." The interaction was pleasant, but not quite effortless as they both seemed to have desires left unmasked by the conversation or by the alcohol. He slowly made his way to the door. "I'd like to do this again."

A beat, as he looked at her. "It'd make me happy to see you..." He smiled lightly, intending it as a jib to her earlier comment that she'd made from her heart, the booze clouding her mind...or maybe more. Who could really tell what he meant?
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Old 03-24-2015, 02:04 AM   #24
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"It doesn't have to make sense, Natalie. Just to you." He said, his voice soft. She flinched when he placed a warm hand on her shoulder, but settled into the touch. Without thinking, she reached up to place her hand over his and squeezing. It was a rather tender moment.

"But I'll keep in mind to let you know when I want you around." He said, grinning and breaking the tenderness. Natalie let go of his hand when he pulled it back. He was teasing, but the words sent a small shudder down her spine that she couldn't quite explain.

"Well maybe you should. I'd hate to come around when I wasn't wanted." She said, teasing back at him. Mostly.

Eventually, the night wound down, and Natalie knew she couldn't come up with a reasonable excuse for him to stay longer. Asking was out of the question. Besides, he seemed to be making efforts to get ready to leave. She couldn't help but feel disappointed, though she didn't know what she'd expected to happen.

He thanked her for everything and she shook her head. "My pleasure. Told you, makes me happy to do it for you." She smiled warmly and followed him to the door. He turned back, nearly bumping into her. She took a small step back, though they were still close.

"I'd like to do this again." Corey said softly, genuinely. Then he paused and Natalie opened her mouth to speak but he finished before she could make a sound. "It'd make me happy to see you..."

Natalie nodded, but inside she was glowing. "I would like to do this again too, but you already know that." She smirked a little. "I think---I think it would make me very happy to see you again as well. I could always use more opportunities to show my appreciation. You let me know when you want me around." She said lightly with a smile, alluding to something he'd said earlier.

Natalie opened the door for him, stopping to lean against the doorframe as he walked out onto her porch. "So, I guess I'll see you at work on Monday..." She said as he turned back. There seemed to be something missing. A slightly awkward pause where neither knew quite what to do. A hug, a simple goodbye, a handshake even? In a moment, he would walk away and that tension would be broken, but still lingering as unresolved. She couldn't let it go unresolved.

Stepping forward, she lifted her arms and wrapped them around him and hugged him gently. She meant it to be a brief, friendly hug, but once she was against his warm chest, she melted into him, resting her head on his shoulder, her arms around his waist. It was like all the gratitude she felt for his man, all the indescribable emotions she felt at getting a new lease on life, flowed through that hug. That simple affectionate contact broke the surface. It felt like what she'd needed, what she'd been waiting for since the first day they met, maybe even earlier.

Natalie hugged Corey tightly, neither of them speaking for several moments. "Thank you." She finally whispered in his ear. Those two words full of everything she needed him to know. Slowly, she pulled back from the hug. "See you soon."
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Old 03-24-2015, 09:03 AM   #25
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Natalie responded quickly, the way Corey had hoped and expected. "I would like to do this again too, but you already know that. I think---I think it would make me very happy to see you again as well. I could always use more opportunities to show my appreciation. You let me know when you want me around." Her smile made him feel a bit lighter, and he couldn't help but notice her mentioning something he'd said earlier, too. They were both paying attention.

He let her open the door, and watched her lean against the doorframe as he walked by her and turned back. "So, I guess I'll see you at work on Monday..." She started, and he felt it again. Neither of them was certain what to do, just like earlier when he'd come in. It was Corey restraining himself, not wanting just a hug and Natalie seemingly not wanting to intrude.

"Yeah..." He started, but she beat him to it as she moved towards him, wrapping her arms around him and Corey could do little but make the same gesture, his strong arms going around her back. He felt her lean into him, her head on his shoulder, and for a moment he felt a surge of energy within him, his hands making small circles on her back, feeling her muscles beneath it and the straps of her bra. The latter gave him more ideas, but as they stayed together for what seemed like an interminable moment, Corey knew than he needn't have worried about them being 'just friends'. She was too devoted for that, and he felt her grasp on him tighten.

"Thank you." He felt her breath on his ear, and the close gesture made him shiver, and well as for him to want to have the same effect on her as she pulled away. "See you soon."

It couldn't be soon enough. But Corey was determined to have the last word, his expression serious as he pushed her hair away from her right ear, leaning in even as they were apart. He tilted his head, and for a moment he was tempted to kiss her on the incline between her neck and shoulder, to see what would happen. Instead, he whispered welcoming, warm words of his own into her ear.

"Good night."

With that, he slowly stepped back, his eyes meeting hers to gauge her reaction before walking to his vehicle. He was glad they'd met, and anxious to see her again, not only at work, but alone...

...but he knew he'd have a hard time sleeping, too, if the adrenaline coursing through him was any indication. He only hoped she felt the same way, and knew he'd be thinking about that as he tried to doze off.

For now, though, he was heading home.
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