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The tension between them vanished. As they ate, they shared other funny stories of childhood exploits. “Man, I never realized how bad we were until now,” Derrick said. ” “Forget that ‘we’ stuff. ” Talia poked his arm. “Now that brings back painful memories. ” He winced. ” Talia’s voice dropped to a gentle timbre. “Pretty good. She’s in one of those subsidized housing developments. ” Derrick stared at his plate without seeing the food on it. ” Talia leaned across the table to make her point. Derrick took her hand.

More good news from home,” Talia mumbled. “There might be some publicity, big-time. ” Derrick held up both hands when Talia glanced at him sharply. ” “Typical Monette. ” Talia let out a sharp laugh. Derrick wore a half smile. “Yeah. The day I visited her she was all made up. ” “My mother has always aspired to national fame. ” Talia waved a hand. ” He gazed at her with skepticism. She was taking that last bit of news too well. ” Talia’s eyes narrowed to slits. ” he murmured. Talia’s smile turned into a grimace.

Eileen Vargas rattled off figures she’d discussed with congressional aides. The petite brunette slapped her leather portfolio closed. “I think it’s dead in the water. Hell, you’ve seen the news stories. ” She shrugged. ” Her remark brought laughter. “I hear ya. Our clients already look like a bunch of callous money-grubbers,” Bill Elliot chimed in. His Texas drawl, though softened after years in Washington, was still evident. “Big insurance companies are callous moneygrubbers,” Jasmine Hellinger spoke up.

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