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their most magnanimous manner, “You might make the grade, yet.”
      Life was mostly splendid and Annamaria’s return should have made it that much better, but she took one look at who I’d hired, dropped her jaw and said, “Oh my god, you’ve brought in the devil!” She took off by herself for a while, and when she came back to the office, she hooked her arm into mine, and steered me out to her car, a surprisingly new BMW.
      “We’ll have coffee,” she said, revving the powerful engine. “If you don’t mind, we won’t talk about business until we get to the restaurant.” She patted my leg. “Sit tight, Bob, we’ll figure it out.”
      She also didn’t want to respond when I tried to offer my condolences on the death of her mother. Instead, we drove the few miles in silence. When we turned into the Secret Cove Cafe, Annamaria drove behind the restaurant to the farthest corner of the parking lot and pulled into a space between two overhanging palm trees.
      Switching off the engine, she reached a hand up to my shoulder and turned to look at me. For some reason, I expected to see tears in her eyes, but instead there was a surprising sparkle of excitement.
      “First of all,” she said, and then put both arms around my neck and gave me the deepest kiss I’ve ever received. She leaned back, pulled my hands to her breasts for a minute, then brushed a hand across my cheek and moved away.
      “You’re gonna need that,” she said, a bit breathlessly. “Let me tell you what you’re in for. You’ve hired the King of Severance.”
“What do you mean?”

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