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When missing turns to murdered, one woman’s search for answers will take her to a place she never wanted to go…
After searching for her sister for two long years, Kate Gallagher is devastated when she’s called to the morgue to identify Chrissy’s body, the runaway teen the victim of a brutal attack. Guilt and grief send Kate into a tailspin. She failed Chrissy once…she won’t do it again. Even if finding her sister’s killer means following a lethal bounty hunter into the heart of darkness, placing both their lives in danger.
Working at Maximum Security has taken Jason Maddox down some dangerous paths, but never for a client he’s so drawn to, or for a case so monstrous. As clues lead them deeper into the city’s underbelly, connections to human trafficking draw them closer and closer to peril, but even Jase’s warnings can’t convince Kate to walk away. As the deadly operation puts a target on their backs, they’ll have to decide what matters most: the truth…or their lives.
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Excerpt 1 From The Deception
THE DECEPTION, by Kat Martin
Excerpt 1 of 5
“I’m sorry, Ms. Gallagher. I know this is terribly painful, but unless there’s someone else who can make a positive identification–“
Kate shook her head. “No. There’s no one else.”
“All right then, if you will please follow me.” The medical examiner, Dr. Jerome Maxwell, a man in his fifties with thick black hair threaded with gray, started down the hall, but Kate stopped him with a hand on his arm.
“Are you…are you completely sure it’s my sister? The victim is definitely Christina Gallagher?”
“There was a fingerprint match to your missing sister. I’m sorry. We’ll still need your confirmation.”
Kate’s stomach rolled. Her hand trembled as she followed the doctor down a narrow, endless hallway in the Dallas County morgue. The echo of her high heels on the stark gray linoleum sent a sweep of nausea through her.
The doctor paused outside a half glass door. “I warn you, this is going to be difficult. Are you sure there isn’t someone you can call, someone else who could make the identification?”
Kate’s throat tightened. “My father’s remarried and living in New York. He hasn’t seen Chrissy in years.”
“And your mother?” the doctor asked kindly.
“She died of a heart attack a year after Chrissy ran away.” For Madeleine Gallagher, losing both her husband and her daughter had simply been too much.
The doctor straightened his square black glasses. “Are you ready?”
“I’ll never be ready to see my sister’s murdered body, Dr. Maxwell. But I’m all Chrissy has, so let’s get it over with.”
The doctor opened the door and they walked out of a hallway that seemed overly warm into a room that was icy cold. A shiver rushed over Kate’s skin and her heart beat faster. As Dr. Maxwell moved toward a rollout table in front of a wall of cold-storage boxes, Kate could see the outline of a body beneath the stark white sheet.
Emotion tightened her chest. This was her baby sister, only sixteen the last time Kate had seen her two years ago, before she had run away.
The doctor nodded to a female assistant in a white lab coat standing next to the table, and the woman pulled back the sheet.
“Dear God.” The bile rose in Kate’s throat. She swayed and the doctor caught her arm to steady her.
“Is this your sister, Christina Gallagher?”
Tears welled and slipped down her cheeks. “It’s…it’s her.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” the doctor said.
“Thank…thank you.” Tears blurred her vision and her head swam as she walked out of the building into the sunlight and crossed the parking lot to her car. She wouldn’t be returning to her office today. She needed time to grieve.
Kate slid in behind the wheel and shoved her key into the ignition. Fresh pain struck so hard she couldn’t breathe. Instead of starting the engine, Kate put her head down on the steering wheel and started to weep.
Jason Hawkins Maddox sat at the old fashioned long bar in the Sagebrush Saloon, a country western hangout with a juke box in the corner for dancing. Tonight he was there on business, meeting an informant he hoped would give him a lead on the fugitive he was hunting, Randall Darren Harding.
Harding, a cement contractor, had been arrested for the brutal murder of his ex-girlfriend. He’d been out on bail when he’d decided to flee instead of standing trial, where most likely he would have been convicted.
From what Jase could find out, Harding was a rotten, self-centered, mean-tempered bastard, the kind who could wind up killing again. He’d strangled his girlfriend in a fit of rage, but a fancy lawyer had gotten him out on bail.
The reward for catching him was a fat fifteen percent of his million and a half dollar bond. Jase planned to collect.
Thus his meeting with Tommy Dieter at the Sagebrush Saloon.
It was relatively early, a little after nine p.m., but the place was already more than half full. The décor was rustic, with a sea of wooden tables. A big dance floor dominated the interior, the juke belting Willie Nelson for the couples that were
In the mirror in the carved oak back bar across from him, he could see himself on a bar stool next to a little guy in a blue Texas Rangers baseball cap. The little guy made Jase look even bigger than his six-foot four-inch, two hundred twenty pound frame.
So far Tommy hadn’t showed, but he wasn’t due for at least another hour. In the meantime, Jase was enjoying the local scenery, his attention fixed on the tall blonde with the pretty face, sexy curves, and amazing cleavage, but then half the guys in the bar were watching her.
In a short jeans skirt, a pair of cowboy boots, and a bright pink tank top, she had danced five times in a row. If he weren’t there on business, he might ask her for a turn around the floor himself. Jase watched the blonde dancing with a lanky biker too short for her, too skinny, and a few years too young.
She wasn’t meant for the boy biker, but she was just Jase’s type, luscious, with legs that went on forever. And as she slid her arms around the boy biker’s neck and he pulled her close, clearly uninhibited. It didn’t take much to imagine the way she’d feel moving beneath him.
He picked up his beer and took a drink. He’d been watching her all evening. The good news was, she’d been watching him, too.
When the song came to an end, she left the boy biker and walked right up to him, the heels on her boots pushing her closer to his height.
She smiled. “You like to dance, cowboy?”
“On what? The song?”
“Who I’m dancing with.”
A dark blond eyebrow went up. “Is that right…”
“That’s right, darlin’, and you’ll do just fine.” Without waiting for a reply, Jase swept her onto the dance floor. She felt good in his arms, fit him just right. She was a good dancer, but so was he. He was a Texan. He’d done all the usual things a Texas boy did. Played football, drank beer down on the river, rode horses, and two-stepped.
“What’s your name?” he asked as he whirled her around the floor
“Kate.” She smiled. “You’re Hawk.” Her smile widened into a grin that etched a dimple into her cheek and he felt a jolt of heat. “I like it,” she said. “It’s sexy.”
“You think so?” As the song came to an end, he drew her off the dance floor into the shadows, took a chance she wouldn’t slap his face, and kissed her.
She softened against him and kissed him back, and he took it a little deeper, felt the rush hit his system. Since they were standing in a bar full of people, he didn’t let it go too far.
Kate ran a finger along his jaw. “You looked like you’d be a good kisser and you are,” she said.
“We can go outside and I’ll show you just how good I can be, but it’s gotta be up to you.”
Something flickered in her big brown eyes and for a moment her bright smile faded. “I need that tonight. Just this once, just to help me forget.” Her bottom lip trembled an instant before her saucy grin returned. “Come on, cowboy, let’s go.”
Excerpt 2 From The Deception
THE DECEPTION, by Kat Martin
Excerpt #2 of 5
After her meltdown at the bar, which still embarrassed her, Kate spent the following week hounding the Dallas Police Department.
Chrissy’s case had been assigned to a homicide detective named Roger Benson, an older guy with thinning brown hair and a bad attitude. She’d done a little digging, found out he had previously worked in the sex crimes division, an unabashed misogynist who acted as if he believed all women were whores and was completely the wrong person to be handling cases in that department–which was probably why he now worked in homicide.
She tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, figuring the crimes he had worked had changed him into the man he had become. Or maybe he had always been like that. Either way, Kate didn’t like him.
“Your sister was using the name Tina Galen,” he told her when she appeared in his office demanding answers for the fourth day in a row. “She was a heroin addict and a known prostitute.”
Her heart squeezed, though the police had already told her those things. “She was murdered, Detective. Her killer needs to face justice.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Ms. Gallagher. We’re doing everything we can to locate the person who killed her, but in circumstances like these, the odds of finding him aren’t good.”
“The killer must have left evidence. Fingerprints or DNA. Something.”
“We’re working on it. We believe Tina hooked up with a john who liked rough sex. That night, he got carried away, beat her worse than he meant to, and killed her. If that’s the case, he may have assaulted women before.”
“So you’ll be able to find him.”
“Like I said, we’re working on it. You need to let us do our job, Ms. Gallagher. Coming down here every day and badgering us isn’t going to help. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got things I need to do. Your sister’s case isn’t the only one on my desk.”
She glanced over at the stack of files on the detective’s desk and bit back a sharp retort. “Yes, I can see that.” And clearly, arguing with Benson wasn’t going to get her anywhere.
As she left the police station, it occurred to her there was a good chance nothing she said or did was going to get the answers she was determined to get in regard to Chrissy’s death.
She needed someone to help her. A detective who worked directly for her and strictly on her sister’s murder case.
At twenty-nine, she was the owner of Gallagher and Company Consulting, an up-and-coming management consulting firm. And though there were only two other analysts in the office so far, plus a receptionist who acted as her personal assistant, she had built a solid reputation during the time she’d been working in Dallas, and the company was making money.
She could afford to hire a private investigator.
Arriving in the lobby of the five-story building on North Akard near McKinney where the office was located, she waved at one of the security guards, a big guy named Clay, as she passed.
Kate’s stomach tightened. Clay didn’t have the thick dark hair and gorgeous blue eyes of the man she had nearly had sex with in the parking lot of the Sagebrush Saloon, but he was almost as tall, with the same rock-solid body. Every time she saw Clay, who was older and not nearly as good-looking, she thought of Jason “Hawk” Maddox and felt a combination of embarrassment and a ridiculous rush of heat.
Dear God, she had never been more turned on in her life. When he’d hauled her out on the dance floor and pulled her into his big, powerful arms, it occurred to her for the first time, she might really go through with the hookup she had only imagined.
Maddox really knew how to dance. And he could he kiss. She could have kissed him for hours.
Thank God, she had come to her senses before it was too late. She didn’t do hookups, especially with hot, muscle-jocks in jeans and scuffed boots. She didn’t have sex with strangers.
But after she’d left the morgue, she had gone a little crazy. Crying hadn’t done a lick of good and eventually she had managed to pull herself together, but the terrible feelings of guilt and failure would not go away.
It didn’t matter that she and Chrissy, an accidental baby eleven years younger, had never been close, that by the time Chrissy was in high school, Kate had moved from the small Texas town of Rockdale to Dallas.
She was working full time for Bain Consulting as a junior member of one of their teams when Chrissy began having problems with drugs and alcohol, and behaving promiscuously with boys. Kate had gone back to Rockdale to talk to her but it hadn’t done any good. A few months later, her sister had run away from home, and though the police had done everything in their power to find her, Kate had never seen her again.
Not until the police had called with the terrible news of her murder and Kate had gone to the morgue.
How she’d wound up half drunk at the Sagebrush Saloon still wasn’t completely clear. She’d just been desperate to get the image of Chrissy’s battered and bludgeoned body out of her head, and for a while in the backseat with Jason, it had actually worked.
It was impossible to think of anything but those big hands on her breasts and the thick ridge beneath the fly of his jeans. God, she had never known that kind of want before.
Excerpt 3 From The Deception
THE DECEPTION, by Kat Martin
Excerpt #3 of 5
Kate stepped out of the elevator onto the tenth floor and made her way down the corridor to her apartment. Her face felt warm and her insides still quivered. One kiss? It was impossible.
She walked into the living room and firmly closed the door, blew out a shaky breath. She didn’t trust herself when it came to Hawk Maddox. She had never been this physically attracted to a man before.
Kate sighed as she headed for her home office. If she could turn back time, she would stay as far away from Maximum Security as she could get. She didn’t need a man in her life. She didn’t need the complication. Particularly not a man who drew her the way Jason Maddox did.
That attraction had been the cause of her first mistake–seducing him at the Sagebrush Saloon. It had seemed so safe at the time. A one-time hookup with a hot-bodied guy who made her stomach curl with a single kiss. And those amazing blue eyes. She shook her head. Why not? Other women did that kind of thing.
Now she was working with him, exposed to all that hot masculinity on a daily basis till they found Chrissy’s killer.
Another sigh slipped out as she sat down at her computer to do a little more research. She could handle it. She was a grown woman. Besides, she really had no choice.
As the screen lit up, her cell phone rang. Kate dug it out of her purse, checked but didn’t recognize the number. “Kathryn Gallagher.”
“Katie…sweetheart, it’s your father.”
Her stomach instantly knotted. She could see him in her mind, a tall, slender man with silver threads in his dark hair.
“It’s good to hear your voice,” he said.
Her fingers tightened around the phone. She hadn’t seen her father since her parents’ divorce. He’d phoned while the police searched for Chrissy, but her sister had left a note so there was no doubt she had runaway. He had called again when her mother got sick. She had only heard from him twice since her mom had died.
“I should have called you when I first heard the news, but I…I just couldn’t.”
His words and the quiver in his voice surprised her. Maybe he actually did care about his daughter, at least a little.
“What do you want, Dad?”
“I know you and Chrissy weren’t close, but she was still your sister. I want to know if you’re okay.”
Her eyes burned. A lump formed in her throat. “No, Dad, I’m not okay. Chrissy’s dead. She was murdered and the police have no idea who killed her. So no, I’m not okay.”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart, I truly am. I wasn’t a good father to you or your sister. I regret that. I want to make it up to you. I’m coming to the funeral. I just need to know where and when.”
“They haven’t…they haven’t released Chrissy’s body yet.”
Seconds passed. “I assume you’re making the arrangements. You’re handling the funeral?”
God, she hadn’t even thought about it. She was too consumed with finding Chrissy’s killer.
She took a deep breath. “I’ll be taking care of it, yes.” And now that he’d asked, she realized she wanted Chrissy to be buried next to their mother. The spot had already been paid for, meant to be used by her dad–which was never going to happen now. “I’d like her to have the place next to Mom.”
“Yes, of course. I should have thought of that myself. Are you…are you going to be all right?”
“I’ve always been able to take care of myself, Dad. I’ll be fine.”
“All right, then. Just call and let me know what day the service is going to be held and I’ll be there.”
“You don’t need to do that. Rockdale is a long way from New York.”
“I want to see you, sweetheart. It’s been far too long.”
“You’re married, Dad. You have a family. I’m all that’s left of your old life.” The lump returned to her throat. “I understand, I really do.”
“Katie, listen to me.”
“I’ve got to go, Dad. I’ll email the date and time.” She hung up before he could say anything more. Fresh tears threatened. She told herself to compartmentalize. She had learned to do that over the years, separate the parts of life that needed to be dealt with now from the painful parts that could be dealt with later. At the moment, she needed to compartmentalize the loss of her sister, separate the Chrissy of the past from the woman who had lived on the streets and been brutally murdered, Tina Galen.
She could do it, she told herself. Just like with Maddox. She didn’t really have any choice.
Excerpt 4 From The Deception
THE DECEPTION, by Kat Martin
Excerpt #4 of 5
It was eleven p.m. when Jase pulled up beneath the portico in front of Kate’s apartment building. He’d considered picking her up earlier, taking her out to dinner before they headed back to Old East Dallas to find Lolliepop. But until her sister’s murder was solved and he could pursue the attraction they shared, the less time he spent with her the better.
Kate stirred him up in ways a woman never had, arousing his curiosity about her, his protective instincts, his heretofore unknown possessive nature, sure as hell arousing his libido.
When he was with her, half the time he walked around with a hard on. She was trouble he really didn’t need, and yet he had promised to help her find her sister’s killer. He was determined to do that no matter what it took.
He glanced through the glass front doors into the lobby as Kate stepped out of the elevator, breathed a sigh of relief that she wasn’t wearing her hooker garb. Instead, she wore a scoop-neck pale blue top and black jeans tucked into low-heeled, knee-high black leather boots.
He almost smiled. Maybe she figured the boots would be easier to run in if she needed to make another quick getaway.
Kate jerked open the SUV door. Her long blond hair, woven into a single thick braid, swung across her shoulders as she slid into the passenger seat. He itched to wrap a hand around that sexy braid and drag her across the seat into his lap. Damn, the woman turned him on.
Reminding himself to behave, Jase started the engine and drove out from beneath the portico, continuing down the road to Old East Dallas. He glanced over at Kate. She looked tired. But then, bar fights with an army of drunks had a tendency to wear you out.
“Rough day?” he asked.
Kate sighed. “Andrew came by to see me.”
Jase tensed. He didn’t like Andrew Bradley. He liked him hound-dogging Kate even less. “What’d he want?” As if he didn’t know.
“He asked me to go to the Dallas symphony on Saturday night. Mozart’s Piano Concerto.”
He cocked a dark eyebrow. “You into that kind of thing?”
“I enjoy classical music.” She grinned. “I’d rather go country western dancing.”
Jase smiled, told himself he didn’t feel a sweep of relief. “Good to know.” His gaze slid back to the road. “So you going out with him?”
“Hell no. Been there done that. Not interested in doing it again.”
“What about you?” Kate asked. “Make any progress on the case?”
He hit his turn signal and passed a beater Toyota loping along the road in front of him. “Tabby called. Came up with three names, guys arrested for assaulting prostitutes.” He told her how he’d already tracked the location of one the men and planned to see him tomorrow.
“I want to go with you,” Kate said. “I want to be there when you talk to him.”
She’d told him from the start she wanted to be involved. Talking to a suspect shouldn’t be as dangerous as going to Mean Jack’s or even as risky as what they were doing tonight. Shouldn’t being the key word. You never knew what could happen when you were dealing with scum like these. On the other hand, a deal was a deal.
“All right. I’ll pick you up at ten. That’ll give us both time to check in at work.”
It wasn’t long before he was cruising the same street they had been on last night. Mean Jack’s was up ahead, the lot more than half full. Next to it sat the Sunshine Station, gas and convenience store, a rundown, glass-fronted structure with a wide awning out front that extended over a pair of outdated gas pumps. The Sunshine Motel sat behind it.
Tall lampposts in the parking lot cast light on a pair of rough-looking men who leaned against the gas station wall smoking cigarettes or maybe joints. At the moment, there were no women around.
Jase pulled up to one of the gas pumps and turned off the engine. “I don’t see anyone in the store except the guy behind the counter. I’ll gas up while you go see what you can find out.”
She looked surprised he would let her go in by herself, but he’d rather be outside where he could keep an eye on things. He used his credit card to start the pump, jammed the nozzle into the tank, and began filling up.
He glanced over at the men, didn’t like the looks of the big dark male, clearly not a customer, who appeared to be waiting for someone. He didn’t like the tall, skinny dude beside him any better.
But then pimps were never his favorite people.
As Kate walked toward the convenience store, the Texas night was warm and damp, a moist wind drifting over the landscape. Beyond the glass door, the interior of the store smelled like lube oil and cloying perfume.
Kate walked over to the Coke machine, filled a cup with ice and Diet Coke, then went up to the counter to pay for it. Her eyes widened at the sight of a fishbowl filled with foil-wrapped condoms. A sign on one side read FOR SALE $.50 CENTS. Her gaze flashed to the man behind the counter, narrow-faced, with fine brown hair and a bald spot at the back of his head.
He just shrugged. “They’re big sellers here.”
Her stomach tightened but she managed to smile. “I’m looking for a woman named Lollie. I hear she works in the neighborhood.”
His filmy blue eyes slid over her like cold grease. “I wouldn’t have picked you for the type.”
It took a moment to realize he thought she wanted a sexual encounter with a female. Kate raised her chin. “I didn’t see any women outside. Do you think she’ll be here tonight?”
“So eager.” A lecherous grin curled his lips. “Maybe a man can give you what you want. I’d be happy to try.”
Her irritation grew. She propped her hands on her hips and drilled him with a glare. “I asked you a question. Do. You. Know. If. Lollie will be here tonight?”
The guy seemed to wither. “Take it easy, okay? Lollie’s here most nights, sometimes she works somewhere else. You never know with a whore.” He flicked his unshaven chin toward the door. “You can ask Snoopy–the tall, skinny guy outside. He’s her pimp.”
The man she’d seen when they drove in. Had her sister been one of Snoopy’s women, too? It made her sick to think of it. But if it were true, he could be involved in her murder.
Excerpt 5 From The Deception
THE DECEPTION, by Kat Martin
Excerpt #5 of 5
Kate awoke later than usual the following morning. As events of the night came rushing back, her gaze shot to the other side of the bed, but Jason wasn’t there.
Relief filtered through her, followed by uncertainty. She sat up in bed, feeling aches in places that had never ached before. Maddox had done that, driven her to heights she had never experienced. Doubt swelled. She wasn’t sure how she felt about what had happened, had no idea how it would affect the job she needed done.
Sunlight streamed through her bedroom curtains as she came to her feet, grabbed her robe, and headed for the bathroom. Jason was already gone. She hadn’t heard him leave, wondered if he had left to avoid the always difficult morning after conversation.
Whatever the reason, she would never forget the night they had shared. Instead of lonely hours filled with grief and regret, he had swept her into a night of passion, a place where sadness didn’t exist, just heat and need and pleasure.
She had known he would be a demanding lover, hadn’t expected him to also be generous and attentive. His lovemaking had been unlike anything she had experienced before. It was impossible to regret what had happened. Or at least not so far.
On the other hand, she had no idea what Jase would expect from her now, or if he was the kind of guy who was mostly about the conquest, the kind who would be moving on after spending a night in her bed.
The smell of coffee reached her as she came out of the bathroom, drawing her toward the kitchen. A white mug with a yellow daisy painted on the side sat next to a freshly brewed pot of coffee on the counter. A few words scribbled on a piece of paper sat beside it. She reached for the note.
Pick you up at ten, it read. Nothing more than that, nothing personal. Part of her was disappointed, though she had no idea what she would have liked him to say. Far more important, he wasn’t going to ignore his pledge to help her, even if their relationship had taken a major turn.
Even if things were uncomfortable between them.
Kate poured the mug full of coffee. Whatever happened last night, Jase wasn’t to blame. Having sex had been her idea. He had simply done what she’d asked him. He’d just managed to do it far better than she ever could have imagined.
Kate took a sip of the thick dark brew, which had turned strong and black while she had been sleeping, and grimaced at the bitter taste. Without time to brew another pot, she carried the mug into the bathroom to shower and get ready for Jase to pick her up.
As she turned on the water and waited for it to get warm, an odd mix of excitement and trepidation slid through her. She had no idea what to expect from him. On a personal level, they needed to go back to where they were before last night, to focus on solving Chrissy’s murder. They needed to talk to the people at the New Hope Rehab Center, talk to Elijah Zepeda, and also to Marco Bandini, the last of the three men arrested for assaulting a prostitute.
As she brushed her hair and applied her makeup, she tried not to think about last night. When that failed, she tried to convince herself she didn’t want it to happen again.
But when she was walked into the living room a little before ten o’clock, she found herself in a pair of sexy stretch jeans, heeled sandals, and a form-fitting, cap-sleeved, scooped neck blue top that showed some cleavage.
It wasn’t blatantly sexy, but it wasn’t a pillowcase, either.
She was nervous when the intercom buzzed and the front desk announced Jase’s arrival in the lobby. Kate slung her purse over her shoulder and headed for the elevator. When the doors slid open, he was waiting. In jeans, boots, and a dark blue t-shirt that hugged his amazing chest and showed the tattoo on his biceps, the man was definitely eye candy. She thought of last night and a sliver of heat curled low in her belly.
His gorgeous blue eyes ran over her. “You okay?” he asked.
Was she okay? She wasn’t exactly sure. She felt different, as if making love with him had changed her in some fundamental way.
“I’m ready to go to work on the case, if that’s what you’re asking.”
A corner of his mouth tilted up and she knew what he was thinking. “Glad I could be of service.”
Memories arose of the things he had done to her and heat rushed into her cheeks. “I’m sure spending the night with a distraught woman wasn’t your top priority, so…thank you.”
As they reached her side of the SUV, he caught her shoulders and turned her to face him.
“I stayed with you last night because being in your bed was exactly where I wanted to be. That hasn’t changed. Neither has my commitment to finding your sister’s killer.” He dragged her hard against him and his mouth crushed down over hers. Heat and wild hunger roared through her, the instant before he broke away.
“We’ve got work to do,” he said gruffly. “Let’s go.”
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- Series: Maximum Security (Book 2)
- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: HQN; Original edition (September 10, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1335007695
- ISBN-13: 978-1335007698
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
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