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The Catch: A Vanessa Michael Munroe Novel [Format Kindle]

Taylor Stevens

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Chapter 1

Djibouti, Djibouti

On the rooftop edge, she waited, eyes tracking down the length of the street while she sat with one knee dropped over the side, the other tucked under her chin, ears attuned to the small sounds that marked the climber's progress toward her.

Here, four stories up, the smell of rotting garbage was a little less putrid, the air a little cooler, and if she chose to stand and stretch, she could see beyond the expanse of treetops and dusty low-slung houses, through to the port, a barely visible patch of primary colors against the ocean. This was Djibouti. Dirty. Quiet. Corrupt. A world far removed from the rain forests and humidity and familiarity of equatorial Africa where she'd been born, yet so much the same. Pinprick on the map between Somalia and Ethiopia, a desert nation of less than a million that bottlenecked the mouth of the Red Sea, this, the capital, was where half the population lived.

Chatter rose from below as women, heads wrapped in colorful scarves and dressed in ankle-length sheaths, passed by with their bundles. Scratching from behind told her that the climber had pulled himself over the ledge, that he'd stood and dusted his hands off on his pants, that he strode slowly, deliberately in her direction.

Vanessa Michael Munroe didn't turn to look. Didn't acknowledge him when he stopped beside her to peer down at the street. Ignored him when he sat a few feet away and with a satisfied sigh dropped his legs over the side, leaned back, and surveyed the area.

Most of what surrounded them was single- and double-storied buildings, mainly residential and strung along in both directions, some nestled within dirt-strewn walled compounds and some not.

"It's a good view," Leo said. "Better breeze up top. Not so much smell."

She didn't answer; continued to ignore his presence. He could have spared himself the effort of the climb--spared her the effort of small talk--if he'd simply waited until she'd returned. Instead, he'd come for her, which was his way of marking territory: a reminder that he was familiar with her routines and could invade them if he cared to. She allowed him to believe it, just as she allowed him to believe that he knew who she was, where she'd come from, and why she was here.

They sat in silence, and in spite of the lowering sun and the evening breeze that had begun to cool the air, sweat still trickled down her back and neck, soaking her shirt. The heat didn't bother her the way it would him, so she let him have the discomfort and the lengthening quiet until finally he broke and said, "We board at two this morning."

His English was thickly accented, and that he chose to use her language instead of the French with which they typically conversed was more of his pointless point-making.

She said, "I'm still not interested."

He nodded, as if contemplating her defiance, then stood and, with his toes poking over the edge, studied the ground. Wiped his hands on his pants again and took a step back. "It's for you to decide," he said. "But if you don't board, I want you out by tonight."

Chin still to her knee, focus out over the dirt alleys, rooftops, and laundry flapping on many lines, she said, "Why? If I come, I'll just get in your way."

"That may be," he said. "But still you come. Or you leave."

She glanced up, the first she'd deigned to look at him. "And then who'll be your fixer?"

He took another step away from the ledge. "I managed before you got here," he said, and began to walk away. "I'll manage after you're gone."

She straightened and her gaze followed him. "It's not you who has to manage without me," she said. "You shouldn't be the one to make the decision."

Leo paused but kept his back toward her.

She studied his posture, counted seconds, readied to slide out of the way if in response to her provocation he moved to shove her off the building.

"You'd have been better off making arrangements to board in the afternoon," she said, "when the khat trucks come into town."

His hands, which had tightened into fists, loosened a little. He turned toward her, and she watched him just long enough for him to catch her eye, then she shied away in that guilty manner people caught staring often did.

This was part of her persona here, hesitant and nonconfrontational. Made it easier for the men to dismiss and underestimate her, kept her beneath the radar, though for how much longer was up for debate. Like the rest of the guys, Leo had lived more life than his forty-something years indicated; he wasn't stupid. But he was often gone and when he was around she went out of her way to avoid him to keep from giving him enough access to her that he grew curious.

With her back still to him, and his eyes boring into her, Munroe said, "Who're you trying to avoid by boarding so early? Ship's agent?"


"Even if he's not there, he'll hear about it. If you go when the khat trucks arrive, every man in the port is going to be focused on getting his fix--no one will pay attention to you."

"To us."


"You'll come, Michael."

Not a request or a question, an order.

"Maybe," she said.

Leo turned again and strode toward the portion of roof they'd both climbed over, the part where there was less of an overhang and it was possible to get from ledge to balcony and down to the dividing wall without as much risk of slipping and breaking a neck. Louder, Munroe said, "If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't even get into the port tonight."

Leo didn't answer, waved her off and kept walking. He lowered himself over the edge and, at some point on the way down, let out a grunt. Munroe stood. A thud marked his drop from the wall to the ground of the compound next door, so she turned and followed the rooftop edge to the opposite corner, where she caught the colors of the port's shipping containers stacked four and five high.

Somewhere near there the freighter Favorita would soon dock, if she hadn't already, and Leo expected Munroe to be on it. He forced her to pick between poisons: board the ship as part of his team of armed transit guards, risking her life on the water to defend his client's ship if attacked by pirates, or leave the team--and it wasn't difficult to guess why. No matter what she chose, he got her out from under his roof and away from his wife.

Munroe crossed the roof to the spot where Leo had gone over. Lowered and dropped from the ledge into the narrow balcony. Through the glass on the door a five-year-old girl peered out and waved, and Munroe waved back. The girl laughed and hid her face and Munroe grinned.

Months of coming up here, of being noticed and smiled at, so many nights of hide-and-seek with sleep, of watching the stars fade under the rising glare of the sun, and not once had any of the apartment occupants spoken to her. She'd learned their routines, sometimes left gifts of nuts and fruits on the balconies when only the children were at home. Occasionally handcrafted presents waited for her in exchange, but not today, which was fitting for a good-bye. The girl peered out again, and Munroe smiled, then slipped over the rail and maneuvered into position to drop to the next balcony, perhaps for the final time.

For six months Djibouti had provided the comforting chaos that only the Third World could offer, and for these six months, navigating the nepotistic politics, the culture of graft and paranoia, the stench and the sounds and the maze of a society steeped in khat drug addiction, had played snake charmer to the serpents inside her head.

She'd come full circle, back to the African continent: had maneuvered herself into the arms of a mercenary team as she'd done a decade ago, and as it had also been then, she wasn't here as one of Leo's ship-jumping little army for hire, but as a linguist and a fixer. She'd wanted nothing to do with the weapons and the machismo. Though she had the skill to be one of the boys, she'd come to him as an errand runner. This was her past, comforting in a way that home might be comforting, if anything could ever be home. English-teaching parents had been her cover story--one that didn't invite questions--and really, Leo and Amber Marie had no reason to doubt. She got things done, soothed the abrasions that came with working in the grit: Familiar and rote--what clocking in for a data entry job might be to anyone else--Djibouti had kept the inner voices quiet, gave her a way to keep busy without the responsibility or the burden of life-altering decisions or people depending on her for survival. She didn't need Leo's job for the money but for the sanity, and though she could eventually find something else, she didn't want to. She was dead here, liked it that way, and wasn't ready to come back to life.

Munroe went hand over hand, from second balcony to wall, and dropped into the compound that housed the two single-story buildings that were Leo's base of operations. She crossed caked dirt and passed beneath the one large tree to the rearward house, which was three small bedrooms and a few common areas that she shared with two other team members.

Natan lay lengthwise on the living room couch, his bare foot wrapped in an ankle bandage propped up on the wooden armrest. In place of ignoring her as he typically did, he watched her, and when she'd crossed half the room he said, "Leo is looking for you."

"He found me," she said, and stopped. Doubled back and stood in front of his foot. "How bad is it really?"

Natan shrugged.

"That's what I figured," she said, and his expression gave away what his words didn't: He knew just as well as she did why Leo had made this switch, and whatever resentment Natan may have felt at staying behind over a minor injury was probably compensated for by watching Leo's jealousy reach boiling point.

Munroe continued down the tiled hallway toward her room.

She'd never claimed to be male, not to Leo, not to Amber Marie, not to any of the rest of the men. Unlike so many other misrepresentations in her line of work, this one hadn't been calculated or deliberate, was just a continuation of the way she preferred to dress and operate in countries where being a single woman had the potential to cause endless complications. She was long and lean, with an androgynous body; it wasn't a difficult transformation and over the years the pretense of behaving and working as a boy had become more natural than assuming her own identity.

She'd shown up in Leo's office unannounced and asked for a job. He'd given her two weeks to prove her value, and with her skill set and experience it had been easy to ingratiate herself and create dependence, to become part of an operation that, for all of its excellence in weapons and security, lacked the finesse needed to inoffensively grease the daily bureaucratic gears. The side effects of coming onto the team as a male had been a bonus: She didn't have to endure sexist quips, no one hit on her, and Leo's men all respected the boundaries of man-to-man personal space.

Except she'd done her job too well, her name had been uttered once too often on the lips of the boss man's wife, and because Munroe had never bothered to clarify her gender at the outset and it was too late to clarify it now, appearances had turned her into the only guy the wife hung out with and repeatedly talked about during the long stretches the others were away. Call her oblivious, but a husband's jealousy was a complication Munroe hadn't planned on.

Munroe paused in front of her room to listen down the hall for Victor.

If the Spaniard was in, he wasn't moving about. She opened her door to a bare room: a bed she rarely slept in, an empty desk shoved up beside the bed, and a narrow armoire with a few changes of clothes. None of the furniture was from the same set much less the same decade. Her room had no pictures. No personal items. Nothing that said she belonged here.

Munroe sat on the bed and pulled from beneath it a backpack that had been with her for nearly ten years and twice as many countries. Held it in her hands and stared at it without seeing while Leo's options chased each other around her brain: Board the ship, or leave the team.

To keep his marriage calm, Leo needed to make her departure look like her own doing. She had no attachments that would make walking away difficult, but his clumsy, indelicate, ham-handed attempt to back her into a corner irritated her just enough to prod her into proving points of her own. A little manipulation, a little backstabbing, and the fight in her had breached the surface again.

Munroe sighed. Perhaps she wasn't as dead to the world as she'd thought. She stood. Unzipped the pack and then dumped the few clothes from the armoire into it. Against her better judgment, she'd board that ship tonight, Somali pirates be damned, and when she got back, when she was ready, she'd leave Leo's company and Djibouti on her own terms.

Movement and a knock at the door interrupted her thoughts. Amber Marie, the other half of the company, the real brains behind the operation, stood in the door frame, blond hair tied back in a severe bun, baggy clothes hiding both her shapely figure and her age, which was a good ten or more years younger than her husband's. It was Amber who Munroe truly worked for, solving problems in a world that created new ones daily.

"Leo says you're going with him," Amber said.

"I might."

"You don't have much time left to decide," Amber said, and paused. "I guess either way you're leaving tonight?"

Munroe nodded. "Seems that way."

Amber smiled, making it difficult to tell if she understood that Natan's injury was really just a conveniently timed excuse that allowed Leo to force Munroe's hand. Amber said, "I figure once you get a taste for the ships, Leo will steal you away and you'll never want to be my go-to guy again." Gave a halfhearted attempt at another smile. "Either way I came to say good-bye and to thank you for everything."

Revue de presse

“A great page-turning choice for a read-it-in-one-sitting airplane ride or lazy afternoon on the back porch…The novel transports readers to another world, giving a solid dose of action-adventure and a kick-butt female protagonist. The Catch…is a great escape.” —Star-Telegram
“The writer makes her protagonist more empathetic and likable than ever —
startlingly so, because the Michael (her preferred name) Munroe we see here is at her most focused, ruthless and emotionally distant. It’s a difficult balancing act, but one that Stevens pulls off with her usual wit, precision and grace… [An] exceptional novel.” —Dallas Morning News

“Think Catwoman in plain clothes. Lisbeth Salander sans dragon tattoo. Jack Reacher with an extra X-chromosome. Whatever—Vanessa Michael Munroe has to be among the cleverest, fightingest and all-around baddest heroines in contemporary suspense fiction. …
A straight-up adventure tale about a woman who thinks on her feet (that is, when she is not using them to kick bad-guy booty) and always stays one step ahead of her adversaries. My prediction: This will be one of the summer’s most popular beach reads.” —BookPage

"This writer is fabulous and the characterizations are thrilling... You get what you see, and that includes the cleverness, the grit, and the pain. A definite keeper!” —Suspense Magazine

“Taylor Stevens continues her saga of Vanessa Michael Munroe, begun in The Informationist, with a fast-paced action thriller that vividly shows why Munroe is probably the best new action hero.” —Huntington News

“Thriller fans will immediately be sucked into this life-or-death tale as Stevens’s fast-paced plot and indomitable and justice-driven heroine keep the pages turning.” —Library Journal
“This action-adventure thriller moves along at breakneck speed with the requisite violence peppering most of the pages. Munroe is a smart, fiercely strong, yet damaged woman in the vein of Lisbeth Salander, and she could hold her own with Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne or Barry Eisler’s Rain. For fans of high-energy action.” —Booklist

“Munroe makes for an intriguing action hero, and the fight scenes are refreshingly stark and well paced.” —Publishers Weekly

“Stevens resurrects Vanessa “Michael” Munroe, her dangerous, androgynous antihero, for another dark adventure…Fans of the series like that Stevens’ writing takes them to little-known places and offers glimpses into the day-to-day life of the economically developing world. Stevens continues her spare, gritty approach to storytelling, which has made Munroe one of the genre’s most compelling characters, in this latest installment of the haunted heroine’s troubled life.”Kirkus

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 3811 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 386 pages
  • Editeur : Broadway Books (15 juillet 2014)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00HXYKZ56
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°485.043 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Amazon.com: 4.2 étoiles sur 5  141 commentaires
14 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 OK but didn't compare to the first 3 in the series... 29 juin 2014
Par ThisThatNEverything - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I've read all 4 books in this series and have been a HUGE fan. I absolutely LOVE the main character Michael. She's my all-time favorite female character. She can kick some major booty and I love everything about her.

Unfortunately this book wasn't as interesting to me as the previous 3. The other 3 books had me glued to the pages and I was actually interested in the storyline. The whole pirate thing was interesting to me for a tiny bit but didn't hold for long. The whole "at sea" setting got dull to me quickly and even the land setting didn't do much for me either. There were many words that I felt needed translated or explained better as well. I was left guessing what a lot of stuff meant.

The only person I cared about in this book was Michael herself. Pretty much everyone else was unlikable and suspicious. I didn't get why Michael felt the need to put her life on the line and help these crazy people out. I understand that she started out doing it for Amber but it was never really explained why she liked Amber enough to do this. When she talked with Amber or was with her it never seemed like she really cared for her much so it just didn't make sense.

I just felt as though someone or something needed to pull me into the book more. I missed Bradford and desperately wanted him or even Logan to make an appearance but it never happened. The only thing about the book that drew me in was Michael herself. I needed something more to keep my attention. The hope of a Bradford appearance or Michael unleashing herself is what kept me going. I was just a bit letdown this book.

Michael was still wonderful and exciting. She was injured for most of this book though so we didn't see the major butt-kicking woman that we've grown used to. Yeah, she kicked some butt but it was nothing compared to the excitement that the first and second book generated.

I will continue to read more in this series as they become available because I absolutely loved the first 3 books. This book was just okay in my opinion. I have grown to love Taylor Stevens so it hurts to give a lower rating but I've got to keep it honest and this book just didn't compare to the others.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Par David Keymer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
This is the fourth action thriller to feature Vanessa Michael Munroe, usually called Michael, and able to pass as a man or a woman with a change of clothing and a little makeup. Michael’s in Djibouti now and is pressed into serving as an armed guard on a cargo ship bound for Kenya. She neither trusts nor likes her boss, who nurses a grievance against her, and when she sneaks down and takes a look at what they’re carrying on the ship, she’s worried –the hull is loaded with contraband weapons. They are attacked by Pirates–someone tipped them off. There’s a fight and Michael escapes on a small boat with the wounded captain. They make it to the coast of Somalia but the captain is in bad shape. He needs hospitalization, so at least for a few days Michael has to hide out. While she’s hiding, she learns something disturbing: the pirates weren’t out for the ship –their real target was the captain—and they’re still looking for him. Michael’s a player in a very deadly game and she doesn’t even know why. Michael’s good at killing but she doesn’t do it lightly. Still, by the end of this intriguing story, a lot of blood has been spilled.

Michael is part Jason Bourne and part Lisbeth Salander. Like them both, she’s a killing machine when she needs to be and like them, she has half-buried demons in her past. Like them too, she is very smart. She absorbs new languages almost by osmosis –two weeks in a country and she talks if not like a native, at least understandably. In this novel more than in the previous installment (The Doll), Stevens seems to draw on her own past: she was raised in a religious cult and shipped all over the world to beg for the cult; she escaped as an adult by moving to Africa where corruption was endemic and violence never far beneath the surface. “[I] lived a double life,” she writes. “Even as a child, I knew not to talk about what went on.”

Michael, too, knows it is dangerous to expose herself. She has become, reluctantly, a chameleon. But this chameleon bites back.
There’s a lot of action in this book but a lot of intelligence on display too.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Don't Waste Your Time 23 septembre 2014
Par Karen J. Kosmoski - Publié sur Amazon.com
If I had not read Ms. Stevens first 2 books, I would have ditched this one after the 2nd chapter. Lots of talking, little action and I am 3/4 of the way through it. First of all, you have to wonder why Vanessa Michael Monroe is even involved in this plot. She has no vested interest, and it is unclear why she was even involved with this ship in the first place. Then, there is all the dialogue - ad nauseam, and very little action through most of the book. Quite a difference between this and book 1. Finally, the plot is dragging.

Why some people have given this book 4 or 5 stars is beyond me. I would love to see this book reviewed by one of the major periodicals. This is not a very good book and probably my last Taylor Stevens read.
6 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Vanessa "Michael" Munroe at her/his best 15 juillet 2014
Par Suncoast - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This is #4 in Taylor Stevens' excellent series about Vanessa "Michael" Munroe, one of the most complex, violent but compelling characters in modern adrenaline-filled action packed adventure fiction. This is probably one of the best in the series and may make it into my list of best reads for 2014.

To understand this book you really need to know more about "Michael". In her early life in east Africa, Vanessa "Michael" Munroe experienced extreme violence which has left her with demons but with violent survival skills second to none. She is a polyglot who speaks many languages and quickly picks up others, is extremely intelligent and has an almost eidetic memory. Michael is tall and slim and can become androgynous, changing her sex to survive in different environments, especially where females are treated as second class citizens.

IMHO Michael's complex and dangerous character eclipses that of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander. I also think she has many of the self preservation instincts of Maya, (aka Jet) Russell Blake's kick-a** ex Mossad female protagonist.

After the stresses of the "THE DOLL MAKER" when she survives kidnapping by a notorious and viscous sex trafficker, Michael looks for a place for time-out. While others would choose popular holiday destinations, Michael chooses Djibouti near the Horn of Africa, next to war torn Somalia in the south. For six months Djibouti provides her with a comforting chaos that only a person brought up in the Third World would understand. To mould into the local culture Michael lives as a man, learns the local languages and maneuvers himself into a group of white security mercenaries helping them to negotiate the language, customs and intricacies of the local community. When one of the group is injured the leader of the group invites her to join them on guard duty on a ship sailing through Pirate Alley towards Mombasa.

Not long into the voyage Michael discovers that the ship is running guns and shortly afterwards the ship is attacked by pirates off the Somali coast. During the attack her colleagues are captured but Munroe escapes, taking the injured captain with her to Mombasa in one of the attackers' boats. It soon becomes clear to her that while the pirates have captured the boat for ransom, they were really after the Captain. Michael hides him in a small private hospital while she works out her next move.

She decides that the best way forward is to hijack the ship from the pirates to release her colleagues and put pressure on negotiations with the unknown parties who are seeking the Captain. To do this Michael has to merge into the local community, learn Swahili and explore the dark world of investment in piracy and the intricacies of Third World "hawaladar" for investment and money transfers. This becomes harder when she is attacked and seriously injured by local thugs hired to find the Captain.

This time Stevens allows us to see Michael's vulnerability and capacity to operate in an environment when things seem to be out of her control. This is high-octane stuff that is not for the faint hearted. In contrast to many thriller writers Stevens writes long sentences with multiple actions, but they work well to push the action along and keep you in the picture. This time the action may be slightly less over-the-top than her previous books but for once she shows us a more human side to Michael, but also a determination that never wavers.

Taylor Stevens has a very different background to most successful thriller writers. She grew up in a cult commune and forced to beg in the streets for the cult. Her education was deliberately limited. Her success in escaping that background and becoming a successful published author is mindboggling.

Before reading this book I would recommend that you should read a excellent novella THE VESSEL released to promote this book. This will give those who have never read any books in the series an insight into the complex character of Vanessa "Michael" Munroe. It will also give those who read THE DOLL more information about how Michael had took her revenge on the "man with the dog".

While there are a few blips in the plot that concerned me, overall this is top quality high octane stuff and is highly recommended to discerning followers of action adventure thrillers.

My thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book for my review.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Catch 29 août 2014
Par Annie Michelle - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
the catch ...4 stars
I fell head over steel toes for Vanessa Michael Monroe with Author Taylor Steven's first book "The Informationist" and have been eagerly awaiting each new thriller since.
The blurb for the first book was "Governments pay her, criminals fear her and nobody sees her coming" that sums her up perfectly and heck, what's not to love about that?
This book was a little to technical for me, hence the only 4 stars, it felt kind of like I was playing GI Jane. To much techno/war/jargon and not enough Michael kicking ass! A huge bummer was her not beating Naton to a senseless pulp, not even at the end? What!?! Her getting beat almost to death in the beginning and not being able to function like usual, was a disappointment for us both! I do like the fact she is back in contact with Miles though and hopefully headed home.
Vanessa Michael Munroe is tired. She is tired of running. She can't stop thinking about Miles Bradford so, she just keeps running. For the past 6 months Munroe has been in Djibouti Africa. Third world counties provide the background hum she needs to keep the demons away that roam in her head, demons from a sadistic and evil man that brutally interrupted her childhood, and made her who she has become. Death and destruction follow her everywhere, killing is who she is and what she does, a knife in her hand feels just like an extension of her body. She is androgynous being long, lean and depending on what the next job is, she becomes what ever sex she needs to be. She is a loner, keeps to herself, she has found that when she allows herself to love or be loved nothing good ever comes of it.
Leo is her current boss, her job is as a linguist and a fixer. Leo has a new job for the crew, they will be transit guards on the freighter Favorita. Munroe wants nothing to do with this job but he gives her no choice, go with them or go home and she is not yet ready to go home. Once on the ship everything feels wrong to her. What is the real reason for this mission? Why is everyone acting suspicious? The hold has weapons stashed in it, which is not what she was told. They are attacked by pirates but even this feels wrong to her. She kills one of the pirates, hijacks his boat and gets to shore all the while wondering what is really going on with this boat the Favorita, with Leo and the crew? All Somali hijackings are financed business endeavors by venture capitalists, investors who buy shares in upcoming hijackings, making huge sums of money in the process. So who was financing the Somalis and why? With her usual predatory and direct approach she dives in head first trying to save the crew still on board the ship being held for ransom. She needs to get answers for their loved ones on land and try to make some sense out of this new and puzzling situation she has found herself in. will she finally be ready to go home after this? I have my fingers crossed!
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