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doubled over. Ko'Dan looked from one of them to the other, shrugged, and returned to his cooking.

Galen and Isabelle would just get their laughing under control when something new would set them off: a glob of gravy so thick it jiggled on the plate, a new breen to be tested for that "soggy but meaty" quality, Ko'Dan urging Isabelle to try "just a bite." Galen had never laughed so hard in his life. He attributed it to sleep deprivation.

At 7:10 a.m., Ko'Dan declared victory. He had created the "perfect breen, one unparalleled in the annals of culinary history." As he sat down at the table with a bottle of wine to treat himself, Galen and Isabelle broke again into laughter, for no particular reason. Just looking at her made him laugh now. He rested his elbows on the counter, gasping for air, and Isabelle did the same beside him. Her arm touched his as it shook. After a few moments, her hand closed around his.

The laughs dropped away as he turned toward her, and she turned toward him as well, her grey eyes alight, mouth caught between gasping and laughing. He drew in a deep breath, feeling a connection to her he had never felt with anyone else. The lightness inside him again swelled, and as she gasped for air so did he, shocked with the intensity of his love for her.

"You must try a piece," Ko'Dan called. "I can't take all of this incredible breen for myself."

They began to laugh again. She squeezed his hand and released it, and they sat with Ko'Dan at the table.

Ko'Dan asked them to join him in a toast. As they raised their glasses he said, "To new love and old love." He nodded toward the portrait of his mate and drank. "I moved here to get away from all memory of her. Yet it is in my memory of her that I find the most joy."

As Ko'Dan's gaze lingered on
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