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Gold In The Morning Sun ~
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Gold In The Morning Sun
© By Duke Stevens
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Seconds later sitting on the side of his bed Chris knew the night’s rest was done. He wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep.
Thinking about Tess Gallagher in the Canteen alone he struggled with a nagging urge to go there.
Lifting himself off the bed he walked back to the window. Chris surveyed the ranch grounds. Turning around he went into the bathroom and quickly brushed his teeth, washed his hands, hurriedly dressed and walked out into the crisp early morning breeze.
Heading toward the Canteen he chuckled at the thought of what Tess’ reaction must have been like at those first loud sounds coming out of the Juke Box past three o’clock in the morning. Impressed how fast she had found and dealt with the damaged volume control button his stride picked-up. He was eager to see her response at his entrance into the Canteen.
At the door Chris saw that she hadn’t turned on the overhead lights and only the dimmed softness of the side-lights near the food machines were on keeping much of the interior in darkness. Tess was in front of the Juke Box scanning the selections slowly moving from side to side in sensual sway to a remembered melody.
His breath caught as he saw the seductive outline of her nakedness through the thin cloth of the clinging silk nightgown. Her bathrobe lay over the back of the chair she had been sitting in. Her drink half-finished sat on top of the table.
Her dark hair seductively messed hung loose in its long softness caressed her shoulders.
Impossible to stop his body’s response to this unexpected introduction to her hidden beauty, he fought to suppress a surge of longing that she turn around to expose to him the frontal vision of her soft breasts and pleasingly rounded hips under the embrace of her gown.
His brain felt frozen. Held in fascinated fear that if she knew he were here she would disappear he slowly opened the door. Alert to earlier creaking hinges he told himself to give Rob Owens a raise for their oiled silence when he moved through the doorway without sound.
Glancing toward the darkened area of the room he moved quietly to a corner table nearby and sat down in a pine chair that had been left a couple of feet away from the table.
Concentrating on the list of song selections, Tess had taken long moments to wander up and down them. Finally she slipped the coin into the Juke Box and hit the button to start, “Love Gets Me Every Time,” sung by Shania Twain.
Holding his breath, Chris couldn’t take his eyes off her. Her body began to move to the beat of the song. The volume remaining low seemed to allow the words to tiptoe on the air inside the Canteen.
He wondered why she had chosen that song. He thought about the lyrics and how it tells the story of a woman who thought she wasn't interested in love, but discovered she'd been wrong.
Chris suddenly wanted to know if she felt a connection to the message in the song.
Chris McHugh watched her lone dancing, helplessly captured inside its undirected sensual invitation. His exploding senses exposed his lost hope to himself. That hope so distantly gone hadn’t been aroused by any woman before Tess Gallagher had entered his world.
The words moved through him as though it were poetry meant for him.
Tess was now lost in the pleasure of the music’s beat. Her body whirled around the narrowed space of the floor that held its lowered light on her movements as effectively as a theater spotlight.
Her nightgown slid into the curves of her body only to billow away from them as she swirled her body in another direction opening up to his view the beauty of her nakedness beneath its thin folds .
He saw her smile and toss her hair back bringing her hands up to lightly tap an invisible drum in the air to the music’s beat.
When she raised her face to the ceiling in happy expression, he wished he were dancing with her, lowering his lips to her mouth at that moment.
The lyrics, carried on its melody, spoke of a woman who had been content being alone until she had meant the man who had changed her mind.
While he continued to watch her, Chris felt reality settle into his mind. He didn’t want to go back to his cabin. Not able to take his eyes off her, he began to examine how he might allow her to know he was in the building without making her feel uncomfortable.
When the song ended, Christopher McHugh could see she wasn’t ready to stop playing music and go back to her cabin. She had skipped back to the Juke Box. She was once again looking over the selections.
Her back to him, Chris thought this might be the opportunity to let her know he was in the Canteen.
Tess Gallagher heard a low male voice reach out to her saying softly, “You’re beautiful!”
Tess froze in place. She had recognized his voice instantly.
Whirling around, she gasped toward the figure emerging out of the darkness, “I’m sorry! I thought...”
As he came into the light, her knees felt weak. She could see he had dressed in a hurry. His hair uncombed, fell lazily against the sides of his face with several strands falling onto his forehead brushing his right eyebrow within seductive allure.
He seemed to move toward her in a surreal slow motion. She couldn't take her eyes off his long legs in yesterday’s rumpled bluejeans, his unbuttoned shirt exposing his powerful upper body with its curly hair in the upper middle of his chest.
She fought down the desire to walk toward him and run her fingers through this inviting patch of graying curls of short hairs.
She didn’t recognize it, but the closer he came to her, his eyes were holding her inside a deep longing he hadn’t been willing to expose to others.
She felt wonderfully naked within his welcoming interest.
The thought reminded her, she had taken off her bathrobe and it was hanging over the back of a chair.
She inhaled sharply. Looking over at where she had left her bathrobe, she took a step toward it.
He stopped her movement with a gentle protest, “Don’t?”
Her brain felt slow.
Reaching her, his eyes imprisoned her, “Will you dance with me?”
“The music isn’t playing.”
Putting his hand around hers, he led her back to the Juke Box.
Glancing down at her, he smiled, a playful twinkle taking up residence in his eyes. Checking the list of songs, he reached into his pocket and brought out a quarter. Putting it into the coin collector, he punched a button.
The music slipped into the air around them, “When Irish eyes are smiling... Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring... In the lilt of Irish laughter... You can hear the angels sing."
Tess threw back her head and laughed, "Now, why aren't I surprised?"
He felt her laughter run through him like an unexpected caress.
Grinning down at her, he saw her laughter slide into a smile that went deeper into her eyes as he turned her body toward his, “May I bring you close to me?”
She knew that he was asking if she were willing that he feel her unbound nakedness covered only by her gown.
She nodded yes holding his intent gaze.
“When Irish hearts are happy... All the world seems bright and gay... And when Irish eyes are smiling... Sure, they'll steal your heart away..."
He hadn't moved. Verbally answering his question, she whispered, “Yes... Yes...”
He felt the seductive tone of her voice roll through him. He was surprised he remained steady on his feet.
“For your smile is a part... Of the love in your heart... And it makes even sunshine more bright... Like the linnet's sweet song... Crooning all the day long...
Comes your laughter and... light.”
The thrill of his strong arms around her body sent a sense of protective shelter through her. Pressing her face to his shoulder she told her heart to stop pounding.
“For the springtime of life... Is the sweetest of all... There is ne'er a real care or regret... And while springtime is ours... Throughout all of youth's hours... Let us smile each chance that we get..."
She felt his hand slide up her shoulder and touch her hair. Wishing he would tug her hair gently enough to bring her face up to his, she felt disappointment meet his decision to lower his hand once again against her back.
She heard his whisper, "I don't believe the springtime of life is the best..."
Tess blinked back the quickly swelling tears.
The music caressed them, “When Irish eyes are smiling... Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring... In the lilt of Irish laughter... You can hear the angels sing."
The song faded to its ending.
Stepping away from him, she slipped her hand into his.
“Do you have another favorite?”
He grinned, “Yes!”
Selecting, "I'm Just A Country Boy," he reached out for her.
She moved into his arms.
The voice of Don Williams flowed into the moment, telling the story of a country boy's longing to marry a girl engaged to another man.
Drawing her body tightly against his, he danced her away from the Juke Box.
The lyrics swept the lament of the country boy's lack of money and his conviction that even if the girl loved him, he couldn't afford to marry her.
Chris whispered in her ear, “If I’d written it, that would be ‘I’m longin’ for gold in the morning sun.”
His lips touched her ear, his warm breath caressed her cheek. She felt her lower body swell as a surge of desire swept through her.
She whispered back, “You’ve never had gold in the morning sun?”
In seconds, their dance movement had suddenly brought distance between them. She moved her body back tighter against his.
When her unrestrained breasts under her nightgown once again pressed into his chest, he felt desire take flight.
Like grabbing a soaring kite string he drew it back.
Don William's voice brought the country boy's suffering, hauntingly between them, carried by the lyrics that told of his surrender to the reality that he would never kiss the girl of his dreams or have the most beautiful girl around.
Chris whirled her away from him quickly bringing her back against him hard. His playful strength thrilled her. She welcomed the desire rushing through her at the renewed impact of their bodies.
Enjoying the excitement now shooting through her, she wondered if this emotion he had ignited was the type of experience race drivers felt at the moment of hearing the starting gunshot.
Suppressing an emerging happy laugh she wanted to tell him if he had started a race, she wanted him to be the winner. Fighting down a refreshed impulse to run her fingers across his powerful upper body and burrow them into the curly hairs on his chest, she locked her eyes to his.
When Don Williams sang of the county boy's conviction, that without money, the girl would never want to be with him, anyway, Tess lowered her eyes and brought her cheek against his to whisper, “He is thinking for her, isn’t he?”
The breath of his low chuckle that fell against her cheek, kissed her. Through seductive lowered eyelids he spoke softly, “Maybe he’s just afraid he’ll get the answer he expects.”
Her legs felt like rubber.
She stopped dancing and stepped back looking into his eyes to say, “Maybe he should risk it.”
Not saying anything, he grinned and brought her back into his arms.
Putting his lips against her ear he changed the last words. “I long for gold in my morning sun.... Will you be my gold in the morning sun... Will you be my gold in the morning sun?”
John Landers had earlier watched Chris McHugh walk into the Canteen and hadn’t seen him come out. Finally surrendering to his curiosity the security guard strolled toward the Canteen stopping short of entering the building.
Several feet from the back windows he could see Chris and the woman dancing. He saw instantly that she had discarded her bathrobe. Glancing around the interior of the building, he spotted it slung over the back of a pine chair.
Bringing his eyes back to Chris and the woman he felt the sensual strength of the picture they presented to him. Their bodies pressed tightly together and their gaze holding each other in an intense sexual awareness held him motionless.
“Hmmm....” John smiled and adjusted his rising penis inside his pants. He let a question slide into view, “Breaking his own rules... That’s unusual...”
Uncomfortable watching them without Chris knowing it, he turned to walk back toward the stables, muttering, “She may be worth it.”
Time began to move past Chris and Tess as they chose songs that allowed a more playful dance to be stepped out. They were laughing as they whirled through the rock beat of “Baby’s Got A New Baby,” and Johnny Cash’s, “One Piece At A Time.”
Several dances later Chris heard a flock of Canadian Geese honking in full roar overhead. He sent his eyes toward the outside scene.
Seeing the first signs of daylight peek over the distant mountains he reluctantly slowed their dance to say, “Thank you...”
Smiling into his eyes she said softly, “Thank you...”
Bringing his right hand up he touched her cheek then slowly moved his fingers into her hair. He wanted to kiss her. Winding his fingers through the lower strands of her hair he leaned over and pressed them to his lips instead.
When he brought his hand back to let it fall beside his body she moved her face toward his and put her lips on his mouth.
His arms swept up around her welcoming her into his gathering desire. Their lips touched in teasing exploration.
She murmured, “Hmmm....”
Long moments later he let her go, “Wow...”
Holding his gaze she said softly, “Would you like to come back to my cabin with me?”
Bringing his fingers up to slide down her cheek he said within a gentle regret, “It’s against policy to be alone with guests in their cabins.”
“You’re alone with me now.”
Putting his arm around her shoulders, he lifted his eyes up toward the four corners of the room, “We have a chaperone.... Four of them.”
Following the direction his eyes had gone she realized that security cameras had picked up every moment of their early morning encounter.
She thought sadly, “Here is a too careful man.”
Turning into him she slide her fingers into his hair gently twisting it into a hand-held ponytail.
Smiling, she whispered, “Let’s end this movie with a happy ending.”
Kissing him, she sent a promise into the future and a punishment into now.
Chris began to hate his own business policy.
Taking her lips off his, she pressed her face into his chest for long seconds. Inhaling deeply, she wanted to breath his maleness down inside herself and carry it with her like a pleasing aroma she didn’t have to wash away.
Stepping away from him she walked to the chair where her bathrobe lay.
Lifting it up she put it on.
He felt disappointment roll through him when her body disappeared inside the bathrobe. The seductive message from her kiss taunted him.
Attempting to put it away he asked, “Would you like me to walk you to your cabin?”
Tess fought to suppress the adrenaline still flowing through her. Grinning impishly she said, “That would put you too close to my bed... I might just push you inside and lock the door.”
Chris heard his imprisoned desire call him a fool.
Chuckling he replied, “Hmmm... maybe it’s a good idea we just say good-bye here?”
Her look of regret embraced him.
She turned and walked out of the Canteen.
Behind her, Chris strolled slowly to the entrance. Just outside of the building his eyes remained on her retreat until she had entered her cabin and shut the door.
Walking back to his cabin Chris flipped open his cell-phone and called the security guard.
Not knowing the time Tess had first entered the building, he said, “When you check-out the security cameras in the Canteen and put what’s on them on disks and bring them to me... personally?”
Smiling to himself, John said, “Will do!”
Tess shut the cabin door behind her. She felt the lost hours of sleep begin to hit her.
“I must have been riding on surging hormones and adrenaline,” she giggled softly.
Entering the bathroom she took off her robe, let her nightgown slip off her body and stepped into the shower. Once the water began to cascade over her, she slowly increased its temperature until she felt her body come down off the high she’d experienced during the time with Christopher McHugh.
Drying off, she found a clean nightgown, slid it over her head, walked to the bed, turned back the blankets and slipped under the sheets.
Her mind tried to hang on to memory of his lips moving sensuously over hers, his so-touchable chest and those strong and long legs, but in seconds she had fallen asleep.
Chris McHugh got out of his shower carrying the time with Tess Gallagher like a dream he wanted to go back to sleep and finish.
Sleepiness tugged at him.
Challenging his fatigue to a dual, he won.
Making a cup of coffee, Chris decided to have a late breakfast and drove directly over to his small spread without eating. He went through the morning routine trying to stop thinking about Tess.
Finishing the chores he entered the small clap-board house, washed his hands now fighting renewed sleepiness.
Sitting down on the old sofa in the living room, he flipped open his cell-phone. He found two messages waiting.
The call from his daughter Callie let him know she would be stopping by to see him.
Clicking into the second call, he found that his son, Dane had left a joke, “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go on a camping trip, set up their tent and fall asleep.... Some hours later, Holmes wakes his faithful friend..... ‘Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see....’ Watson replies. ‘I see millions of stars..... What does that tell you...’ Watson ponders for a minute..... ‘Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets... Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo.... Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three... Theologically, it’s evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant... Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful tomorrow.... What does it tell you.....’ Holmes is silent for a moment, rolls his eyes and says ‘Watson, you idiot, someone has stolen our tent!’”
Chris chuckled aloud when his son burst into his low-throated laughter.
Flipping the cell-phone lid closed he let out a long sigh. His son was a lost priceless treasure finally recovered. Leaning his head against the back of the sofa he fell asleep within seconds of closing his eyes.
Twenty minutes later he woke up. Lifting himself up from the couch, he stretched and looked around the room then left the house.
Driving back toward the ranch he realized he was glad for the few minutes of shut-eye. He felt more rested. Thinking about the phone messages, he did a battle with both regret and pleasure that his daughter Callie had chosen to drop in to see him the day he would be leading the horse ride and meadow picnic again.
Wondering if he could get her to go along on the ride, he thought about how he could connect to Tess Gallagher and enjoy being with his daughter at the same time without taking anything away from his daughter’s visit.
He wasn’t about to suggest a change of date for his daughter to stop in to see him. Chris McHugh had spent most of his adult life fighting for his right to establish a parental closeness with his children.
Running his hand through his hair he inhaled deeply thinking how life seems so often to deny us the things most important to us.
Bringing himself up with a mental jerk, he knew that it wasn’t some mystical unknown villain that had caused the loss of his right to have a life-time of satisfying connection to his children. It had been his ex-wife and her husband’s choice to sabotage that right by their willingness to use an inadequate family court system to their advantage that had allowed it to happen.
Chris fought the continuing sense of outrage that he had been carrying around for years against a court system that had denied his most fundamental constitutional right of being presumed innocent until proven guilty. Family court had dismissed this right as inadequate because children were involved.
Once again struggling with the dangerous implications of any court system assuming a right to trash a constitutional protection, he could see that now homeland security was dismissing this primary human right by claiming it isn’t adequate to “protect” the country from international and domestic outlaws.
He was convinced it wouldn’t end until all citizen rights had been irretrievably lost.
“There will always be found reasons to ignore them now,” he muttered aloud.
Chris couldn’t understand why politicians couldn’t see that because of such precedents being set it had jeopardized all human rights protected under U.S. Constitutional Law.
Shaking his head, he thought, “The founders of this Republic had good reason to remember run-away dictatorial power. It was a good lesson. They hadn’t forgotten. They added the Bill of Rights for themselves and for the rest of us.”
Shaking his head, he tried to move past the haunting anger. He knew he was fighting an old battle whenever he felt the rage torture him again that anyone can make false claims against a parent in the family court system and pay no personal price for doing it. Often only a brief report could activate a complete loss of family rights for the parent being lied about.
Whirling the Jeep away from his small cattle ranch he said aloud bitterly, “And... it’s the victims of the system who bear the cost of challenging the false charges.”
Turning the Jeep into the entrance of Mountain Meadows he slowed to turn into a parking space behind the restaurant. He jumped out chased by the painful memories of the enormous amount of time that had been stolen from his children and himself. None of that time could ever be recovered.
He went through the kitchen door.
Entering the restaurant for the breakfast he had skipped earlier he knew before the door closed behind him that John Landers had been talking.
Jake Owens glanced up with a questioning look in his eyes. The others smiled with a playful curiosity showing on their faces.
Maggie Owens leaving the kitchen with her morning coffee in her hand sent an understanding stare toward him and nodded good-morning.
Chris stopped walking, suppressed a grin and pretended ignorance. No one said anything.
Glancing around the room at their amused faces he playfully asked,“What?”
Laughter rippled through the room as they returned their attention to what they had been doing before he had entered the kitchen area.
Winking at Maggie, Chris poured a cup of coffee, filled a plate with pancakes taking it into the dining area to eat his meal.
Looking up from where she had seated herself, Maggie sipped her coffee thinking she’d put her money on Tess Gallagher.
She knew Jake would put his money on Chris staying single.
Going back over Chris’ history, she wondered if her husband would end up being right. He’d been a fellow-trucker in the early years and also had seen Chris being flayed alive by the family court system, his finances and personal time dominated by injustice, his relationships with his children almost destroyed by false charges that had been continually filed against him by Stacy, his ex-wife.
It had been more than galling for Jake to see Stacy, who had falsely charged his friend time after time never paying any real price for the lies. After years of standing by and watching the heavy cost of the legal and emotional battle that his friend had been forced to pay, Jake Owens had lost his faith in American family justice. His view was that Chris would never again take another chance on love.
When she was ready to leave the restaurant, Maggie glanced back at Chris. His eyes were directed outside.
The expression on his face told her he wasn’t seeing it.
Tess Gallagher woke with a start.
Her eyes toured the room. The clock told her it was almost Noon.
Yawning, she stretched full-length under the blankets. The memory of Chris McHugh’s strong body poured back into her mind.
Bringing her hands up over her breasts she slid her fingers over her nipples catching them between two of her fingers to gently tug at them. Wishing they were his hands on her body, she lowered her hands, moving them slowly over the smooth skin of her abdomen then slipped her fingers over her vulva feeling the moisture flow onto them.
Smiling, she threw back the covers and strolled toward the bathroom to finish her masturbation in the shower.
After showering and brushing her teeth, she twirled the toothpaste cap back on its tube, examined her image in the mirror and sighed.
Reaching for the hairbrush she leaned over to allow her long hair to fall in front of her. Bringing up the hairbrush over the back of her neck, she began sending it through its length with long brisk strokes.
After dressing Tess hurried over to the restaurant to have lunch and then pick out something to do. Looking around she couldn’t see Chris anywhere. Disappointment reached out and touched her.
Noticing Maggie heading back toward the office from the restaurant she saw Maggie wave and Tess sent a wave and a smile back to her.
Hearing bird chatter she looked over toward the tall bird-houses Chris had put in place around the campgrounds to encourage nesting for Purple Martins. Their graceful flight high in the air brought a smile to her face. They had a distinctive gurgle to their chatter.
Maggie followed Tess’ movement toward the restaurant thinking, “If she’s going to take the late afternoon boat ride on Flathead Lake she better eat in a hurry.”
Maggie examined Tess’ outfit. Brown cotton slacks, white cotton long-sleeved shirt, brown tennis shoes, hair pulled back in a ponytail, a waist band for cash and identification cards instead of carrying a purse. Gold earrings in her ears. A bottle of water in her hand.
It would do for a boat trip.
The bus for the scenic boat ride on Flathead already loading passengers drew Tess’ attention. Tess wondered how long she had to eat and get abroad.
Entering the restaurant she ordered a Tuna sandwich and milk to go. Short minutes later she exited the restaurant.
Not knowing that Clarence and Hannah Story were on the bus, she boarded. Walking by their seat she didn’t miss the pleased expression on Clarence Story’s face when their eyes met. She felt her brain nudge her to get off the bus and forget the Flathead trip for today.
Hannah smiled at her as she walked by them. Tess nodded her greeting.
Seconds later, the bus began to roll forward. “Too late!” she thought.
Picking up movement outside the bus, Tess looked quickly toward the tall man striding alongside the bus for several seconds. It was Chris McHugh walking toward the office.
He glanced up meeting her eyes. He felt his heart pick up its beat. He lifted a hand to her. She smiled and returned his wave wishing he were on the bus instead of Clarence Story.
Before his eyes left the window where Tess had seated herself Chris had seen that Clarence Story and his wife were on the bus.
Frowning, he thought about calling Flathead Lake Scenic Boat Trips and talking to Harry Bender suggesting he look out for Tess.
At the office, Maggie saw him enter with a worried look on his face.
Guessing why, she asked, “Did you see that our resident Casanova is on the bus to Bigfork?”
Looking at her, she knew he wasn’t seeing her. Tess was in his eyes. He nodded.
On the bus, Tess tried to ignore the already evident interest in her that Clarence Story was willing to show by his frequent back-ward glances to where she sat.
Taking out the Tuna sandwich from the paper sack she began eating it refusing to bring her eyes up to meet his stare.
Trying to concentrate on the scenic mountain view out her window she fought back apprehension about what it might mean to her to be on the same trip as Clarence Story.
Wishing she had gotten off the bus, she finished her milk. Putting the empty milk carton in the paper sack that had held the sandwich she placed it down beside her.
Chris McHugh found it difficult to focus on business. He brought his feet up, leaned them against the edge of his desk and pushed the top part of his chair backward. Hands folded in his lap he thought about Tess.
She would be gone all day coming back late. Feeling a new loneliness he wished he were with her. He would liked to have been with her through the afternoon exploring Bigfork and then take the moon-light cruise on Flathead Lake with her.
Restless that Clarence Story would be far too close to her during such a long off-camp excursion he relaxed his legs bringing the chair forward and glanced toward Maggie then walked outdoors.
Flipping open his cell-phone he called Harry Bender.
“Hi Harry. This is Chris McHugh.”
“Well howa’ be ol’ Buddy?”
Smiling Chris said, “Doin’ fine here.... Thanks! Callin’ about the tour bus coming in from Mountain Meadows today. There’s a lady traveling alone. Her name is Tess Gallagher... On the same bus is our most recent ‘Lady Killer.’ She appears to be his target. His wife is with him but that doesn’t seem to bother him. Would you keep an eye on Ms. Gallagher?”
“Will do! I’ll alert Kev to take her under his wing.”
“Thanks! Ask him to call me about what happened when he is gets off work, okay?”
“That’ll be around one in the morning... that okay with you?”
“I’ll be up.”
Harry wondered what Tess Gallagher looked like but didn’t ask, “Okay, I’ll tell him. By the way, when you comin’ our way? Mona and I would love to see you again.”
Chris smiled, “Busy as hell here... Tell her hello for me. Maybe when things slow up. Don’t forget that you guys are welcome here anytime!”
Chris smiled. He liked the always cheerful owner of Flathead Lake Scenic Boat Trips, Inc.
Relief walked back into his office with him.
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Gold In The Morning Sun
By Duke Stevens
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