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Demise of a Self-Centered Playboy

You might be wondering how you’ll know when your playboy ways are coming to an end. For some it might be an unexpected pregnancy (ahem… you know who), for others it might be finally landing the one woman you’ve always wanted (cough… I won’t mention any names). For me, it was the death of my mentor and the subsequent reading of his will.

The signs were there, they always are. But I didn’t notice them until it was too late, and my demise was complete.

Demise Sign #1 – You find yourself thrust into the land of responsibility and you don’t immediately hightail it out of town.

Demise Sign #2 – Despite being stuck with the world’s biggest Jekyll & Hyde, some sadistic part of you actually enjoys spending time with her.

Demise Sign #3 – Your family suddenly stops wanting to weigh in on every decision in your life.

Demise Sign #4 – Somehow you end up being the voice of reason in your tumultuous partnership.

Demise Sign #5 – You start thinking of other people before yourself.

Demise Sign #6 – You agree to put yourself in the middle of an Alaskan reality TV show that has both of you sleeping in the same tent.

Demise Complete.

 

Demise of a Self-Centered Playboy by Piper Rayne is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

1

SUMMARY

You might be wondering how you’ll know when your playboy ways are coming to an end. For some it might be an unexpected pregnancy (ahem… you know who), for others it might be finally landing the one woman you’ve always wanted (cough… I won’t mention any names). For me, it was the death of my mentor and the subsequent reading of his will.

The signs were there, they always are. But I didn’t notice them until it was too late, and my demise was complete.

Demise Sign #1 – You find yourself thrust into the land of responsibility and you don’t immediately hightail it out of town.

Demise Sign #2 – Despite being stuck with the world’s biggest Jekyll & Hyde, some sadistic part of you actually enjoys spending time with her.

Demise Sign #3 – Your family suddenly stops wanting to weigh in on every decision in your life.

Demise Sign #4 – Somehow you end up being the voice of reason in your tumultuous partnership.

Demise Sign #5 – You start thinking of other people before yourself.

Demise Sign #6 – You agree to put yourself in the middle of an Alaskan reality TV show that has both of you sleeping in the same tent.

Demise Complete.

Authors: Piper Rayne

Book 5 of the Baileys Series

Denver

Death sucks.

It sucks mostly for the person who died. Yeah, okay, it definitely sucks most for the person who died. Or maybe it doesn’t.

Maybe there’s nothingness after you pass and it’s really the worst for all of us who are left behind, dealing with the gaping hole of the one we’ve lost.

But you wanna know what sucks worse than attending someone’s funeral? The reading of their will. Not that I’ve been to many. This is my first.

And I can tell you, it’s a complete waste of an afternoon.

Especially when the most important person who’s supposed to be here, isn’t.

I glance at the small gold clock on the wall. I wonder if Luther Lloyd, Attorney at Law, has a stopwatch so he can milk every cent out of his clients. At least this isn’t costing me anything.

Although it sure did cost Chip. Which sucks. The man died too young.

When Luther called and requested that I be present for the reading of the will, I was surprised. Chip wasn’t the type of man I’d think would leave a will.

He was more the type of guy I’d think would leave a note that says, “Throw my ashes into Lake Starlight. I lived a happy life. I’ll catch you on the other side.”

Not someone who picked out special items to leave to someone else who will class them as junk. I don’t want his high school diploma, his coffee maker, or anything of his if he’s not coming with it.

“How long do we wait?” I ask.

Luther checks his watch because he’s the type of man whose life is dictated by a schedule. “I was clear about our meeting time on the phone with her. Let’s give it five more minutes.”

I nod, tapping my fingers on my Vans. Not the most practical thing for an Alaskan winter, but unless fresh snow is falling, I make them work.

“Do you have an excursion today?”

I shake my head.

“And how’s business going?”

I shrug. I’d like to say busy, but sadly, it’s not.

And the fact that I’m going to watch Chip’s company, Lifetime Adventures, be taken over by the woman we’re waiting for makes me want to throw up in her Gucci purse.

She’s going to run it into the ground. Which means everything Chip wanted for the company will die right along with him. His legacy will end in either bankruptcy or awarded to the highest bidder.

“I know this is hard on you. You and Chip were close.”

I shrug again. What does Luther want from me? Does he expect me to ask for a tissue while I lay my heart on his desk? Not gonna happen. I’m used to death.

When your parents die when you’re fourteen, it’s a sledgehammer right in the heart. I quickly realized that all the happily-ever-after fairy tales are bullshit.

I learned that life is fragile and there’s no way to know when your time is up. Crap you shouldn’t know at fourteen, when you still think you’re invincible.

When Chip told me his COPD was worsening, the writing was on the wall—he was going to die.

I stuck by him, helping where I could by taking over the excursions and day-to-day operations, because that’s what you do for the ones you care for.

I should feel some sense of relief today, because his daughter, Cleo Dawson, will be told she’s inheriting the company and I can slide back into my easy life of bush piloting.

But all I feel is dread at the thought of her ruining the company her father worked so hard to build and keep.

I glance to the clock again, which spurs Luther to look at his watch. With no hopes of having a conversation with me, he blows out a breath and opens Chip’s file folder.

“How many of those do you have in there?” I nod toward his filing cabinet. Four drawers upright.

Grandma Dori’s will is probably in there, listing the percentage of Bailey Timber that will be split up between my eight siblings and me. My stomach twists with the thought.

He’s probably wondering, What’s wrong with you, Denver?

You come in here wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, and a beat-up pair of Vans. You won’t make polite conversation.

I’m sure he assumes I’m hungover.

But then he’ll remember my tragic circumstances and the pity will set in.

The part where his eyes turn soft and he nods, gifting me with the “I know, your parents died much too young and it’s fucked you up” expression.

I’m used to it by now. It rolls off my back.

Mostly.

“Almost all of Lake Starlight. Have you thought about writing a will?” Luther sits back, and the small uptick of the corner of his lips says he finds his question as funny as I do.

“We both know I have nothing to leave anyone.”

“Everyone has something,” he says, his hands holding the ends of a pen in a straight line in front of him.

“I don’t own a house or have any money in savings.” Unless someone wants my phone with a bunch of chicks’ numbers, there’s only my plane, which I’m still paying off.

Since my twin, Rome, is engaged and Liam, my best friend, is a step away from the same with my sister Savannah, that phone wouldn’t come in handy to any of them.

“What about personal items? I’ve mediated my fair share of fights between family members over something as simple as a television.”

“I’m living at Savannah’s right now. It’s all her stuff.”

He straightens in his chair. “You know what I mean.”

The door opens, and Luther’s eyes zero in behind me. I swear a cold chill wafts into the room with her.

Cleo Dawson.

Chip’s daughter.

I don’t have to turn around, because her heels announce her arrival. The only surprise, which shouldn’t really be a surprise, is that her stepsister, her mother, and her stepfather are alongside her.

God forbid she deal with this on her own.

Luther’s smile fades as her entourage finds their seats.

She, of course, sits in the leather-bound chair next to me, crossing her legs. Only Cleo would wear high heels and a dress in the middle of an Alaskan winter.

“Denver.” Her voice is cool with a touch of forced politeness.

I turn to her, her tanned legs making it clear she’s from the south.

I’d be lying if I said the smoothness didn’t appeal to me, but that’s the thing about the devil—no one said he or she wasn’t a temptress.

“Cleo.” I nod.

“Miss Dawson, I’m afraid the will is set up so that it is only to be read before you and Mr. Bailey.”

“Why?” Cleo asks.

Her stepfather gets up and rests a hand on the back of Cleo’s chair. Her mother crowds me by coming on her other side.

“We’re her parents,” her mother says.

I examine Cleo’s mother’s mink coat. I bet she bought it specifically for this trip, since last I checked, Texas doesn’t require bundling up.

“Cleo’s over eighteen and an adult. I’ll read the will and Cleo can discuss it with you after if she chooses to.”

“This is ridiculous,” her mother says. “He was my husband.”

“Ex,” I correct.

All their heads whip in my direction with horrified looks that I’d have the audacity to speak at all.

“Why is he even here? He’s not related to Chip.” Cleo’s mom eyes me as though I’m small-town trash.

“Are you worried you can’t strip him of his last dime?” I roll my eyes.

Cleo turns in her chair and puts her hand on her mother’s. “Go ahead and wait outside.”

“I should at least be able to be here, being her mother.” She gives Luther an annoyed huff and the three of them leave.

“Think you can handle yourself alone?” I ask Cleo.

“I hope you have the keys with you.”

I pat down my pockets. “Shit, I knew I forgot something.”

Her eyes narrow. I watch her nostrils fill with air that leaves her body practically with flames.

“Okay. Let’s just get started. We’re already late.” Luther taps his pen on his desk.

“I wonder why that is?” I sneer.

“It’s not exactly dry weather out there. The roads are horrible.” She swivels to focus her attention on Luther.

“You’d think by what you’re wearing it was a balmy eighty degrees.”

“You’d think by what you’re wearing that you were on your way to the local skatepark.”

I laugh and shake my head. “Let’s have it, Luther.”

Luther opens the file folder again and clears his throat. “Chip Dawson was my client, and I will be upfront in saying he changed his will two months ago, but he was of sound mind to do so.

“I suggest neither of you go and try to say otherwise. I made sure to have witnesses present.”

“She might argue, but I won’t.” I don’t even mention whatever he left me isn’t worth anything anyway. Without Chip himself, it’s all meaningless.

“Cleo, you are left Chip’s house and all the belongings inside.”

She straightens and eyes my pockets, silently saying, Hand over the keys to Lifetime Adventures, fool.

“Cleo is also getting his truck,” Luther says.

“I hope a stepladder comes with it.” I chuckle.

She huffs. “You know, we can get out of here faster if you stop interrupting.”

Luther waits a second, and I nod for him to continue.

He goes through all of Chip’s financial accounts, and as expected, everything is going to Cleo.

If we could get to my toaster or whatever he’s giving me so I can get the hell out of here, I’d appreciate it.

“Now Lifetime Adventures.” He taps the papers on the desk. My attention is piqued, because for the first time, I sense apprehension in his voice.

“Lifetime Adventures is to be split fifty-fifty between Cleo Dawson and Denver Bailey. If one shall not want their portion, the other has first option to buy the other one out.”

My stomach drops like the chunk of an ice cap into the ocean. Chip left me his company? What was he thinking? I look at Cleo.

Even with her layers of makeup, her face pales and her head tilts. “He left it to both of us?”

Luther smiles. “Yes, Miss Dawson. You both equally own everything that has to do with Lifetime Adventures.”

She sinks back in her chair and her manicured nails land on her mouth. “I can’t own a business with him. We’ll kill one another.”

I sit up straighter. Savannah’s not exactly a billboard ad for all the great things in life that come with running your own company. She leaves Bailey Timber looking exhausted most days.

I’m not meant for a life like that. Can I do this? Run a company when I hate anything that comes with strings?

Lifetime Adventures comes with a whole slew of strings, Cleo Dawson apparently being the thickest and most binding of them.

Luther digs into the file folder and produces two envelopes and some paperwork, handing each of us a package. “I know this is big news, so he’s written you both a letter.

“Why don’t you take some time, read the letter, and let me know if you have any questions?”

We reach out at the same time. In Chip’s handwriting, Cleo is written on one white envelope and Denver on the other.

“Why would he not leave it to me?” Cleo asks Luther.

“I’m sorry, Miss Dawson, I don’t ask my clients why. Maybe the letter will provide a better explanation.”

She stands and faces me. “I’ll buy you out.”

I’m sure she’d love to buy me out. I was unsure a second ago, but the thought of Cleo destroying what her father worked so hard for has me digging in my heels. “My half isn’t for sale.”

“You know as well as I do this will never work out.” She crosses her arms.

The worst thing about Cleo Dawson, the thing that drives me insane, is that she’s hot as shit, yet I’ll never be able to lay a hand on her.

She’s always been miserable to me—why, I have no idea—but I’m happy to return the favor.

I stand, towering over her. “Well, we can give it the ol’ college try.” I nod to Luther. “Thanks.”

Stuffing the letter into the back pocket of my jeans, I wink and sidestep her.

“Did you even go to college?” she calls after me.

“Don’t worry, Cleo, we’ll get to know all those fun details about one another working side-by-side.” I walk through the door.

Her entourage stands, and I walk right by them.

The fun of sparring with her might be the silver lining to a shitty situation.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

2

Cleo

Denver leaves with only the lingering scent of what I assume must be day-old cologne after a night of partying.

“Thank you, Mr. Lloyd.” I nod and take the letter. The one piece of advice my dad gave me when it comes to the city of Lake Starlight is that you never know who you’re talking to, so be polite.

According to him, my mom made a lasting impression on this town. I never asked if it was when she showed up or when she fled.

“You’re welcome, Miss Dawson.”

I catch his expression. The one that says, ‘I’m not sure why your dad left you everything he had when you couldn’t even visit him.’ He can think what he wants. It makes no difference to me.

My mom and Bridget are already standing. Phil is on his phone. His cowboy hat, pressed jeans, and button-down with silver snaps on the pockets says we’re out-of-towners.

I’m surprised he came today and that he didn’t fly out right after the funeral. My mom stuck around because she wants to see what she left all those years ago.

My stepsister, Bridget, would never allow me to deal with this on my own, so I expected her to stay.

Bridget slides her arm through mine. “He’s kind of hot.”

“He’s the enemy,” I remind her for the fourth time. “And now he owns half the company.”

Bridget rips the paperwork out of my hands and reads it as though she understands the legal jargon. I’m not saying anything bad about her.

It’s just that people in her circle pay others to read the legalese to them.

We were sixteen when my mom married Phil. By that time, we’d each been through so many stepsiblings and stepparents, we decided to embrace one another rather than fight.

It helped that she had a closet five times the size of mine. People in Dallas still comment about how surprising it is we turned out to be the best of friends.

When our friend Miguel is lost in half a bottle of Patron and has failed yet again to get either of us into his bed for the night, he always says that we should wait until the will is read.

We’ll hate one another then. But I don’t really care if she inherits all of Phil’s money. At least my mother wouldn’t get what she married him for.

A lesson she’s yet to learn from her previous five husbands.

I could dissect each marriage and why it didn’t work out, but it’s the same story for each of them—they weren’t built on a foundation of love. Someone was always in it for the advantage.

My father was the first rung on Mom’s ladder of marrying for money. Phil is by far her most successful catch, which is why it makes sense that she’s still married to him all these years later.

“What do you mean he gets half?” My mom holds out her hand.

Bridget shrugs as though she doesn’t understand any of the words written on the papers and hands them over to my mom.

“We own the company fifty-fifty.”

Mom reads the papers, and I tuck the letter into my purse before she notices it.

“You’re going to work side-by-side with that man every day?” Bridget obviously doesn’t share my opinion that nothing could be worse. Her eyes soak him in across the parking lot.

“I’ve always thought there was something about a man in a truck.”

I look down the hall and see him nearing the stairwell and blow out a breath, ignoring the way his jeans hang off him. He makes fun of my heels while he wears those Vans. Idiot.

“He has that look like ‘who gives a shit what life throws at you, I’ll catch it with my bare hands.’”

“You mean the one that says, ‘I dodge responsibility’?” I deadpan.

“No, the laid-back look.”

Bridget’s only accompanied me once to Lake Starlight for a week during my last summer with Chip, before I turned eighteen. But I’ve heard the rumors and seen Denver in action.

A man who still behaves like a boy can only run my dad’s company one way—into the ground.

“Do I have to blindfold you?” I say to Bridget.

She laughs as we descend the stairs. When we reach the bottom of the stairway, Denver pulls his truck to a stop in front of us.

The sidewalk is wide so we’re about ten feet apart at least but I glare at him, hoping he can feel the animosity rolling off me. Rolling down his window, his face appears from behind the tinted glass.

He really is a beautiful man. Not that I’d admit that to him or anyone else.

“I’ll be at Lifetime Adventures if you care to discuss anything, sweetheart.” His smile is huge and his ego even bigger.

Anger spurs through me like a kickstart only he can ignite, and I straighten my back to walk over and give him a piece of my mind.

He must see something on my face because he puts the truck into park to wait for me. Bridget’s arm slides out from mine, and my mom and Phil stay behind, discussing the paperwork.

Mostly, it’s Phil explaining it to my mom. I guess she can only read a divorce decree like a pro.

I want to buy his half, but that entails asking Phil for money, which spurs an entirely different feeling in my stomach. “We need to set up a meeting.”

“Watch out.”

He points at the ground and I look down, losing my footing on a patch of ice. My purse flies in the air and the cold, hard, wet ground welcomes my ass.

Denver opens his door and climbs out like the gentleman I’m sure he is not. “If you’re going to stay in Lake Starlight, you should go shopping for some new footwear.”

Once he helps me up, I yank my arm out of his hand. As I straighten my jacket, Bridget hands me my purse.

“I’m Bridget,” she says to Denver in her flirty bar voice—the one that earns her free drinks all night.

Denver looks over, shakes her hand, then turns his attention back to me. “You okay?”

“What do you care?”

What the hell? Do you not see me standing here?

Bridget might be a millisecond away from unbuttoning her coat to show off her figure. I love the girl, but she can be a tad self-involved.

“Hey, I know we don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot, but I’m not a dick,” he says.

“You aren’t?” I ask.

I transfix on his lips. I can’t help it. They’re pink from a fresh swipe of Chapstick, and he runs his tongue over them. It’s the way he moves one side up in amusement that does me in.

It’s sexy and tempting and I should not be having these thoughts.

Bad Cleo. I mentally slap my wrist.

“No. You wanna ask my sisters?” He steps forward to the side of me and leans around behind me.

I shift my ass away from his prying eyes. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I don’t understand,” Bridget says to herself, probably still trying to figure out why Denver’s tongue isn’t hanging out of his mouth for her.

“I was making sure you weren’t too wet. I have a blanket in the—”

I put my hand in his face. “Nope. I don’t need anything from you.”

He holds his hands in the air and backs away one step. “Have it your way.”

Opening his truck door, he looks at the rented SUV with a driver that’s pulling around from the parking lot out back. “I assume that’s your ride?”

“Yes.” I make my back ramrod-straight, so he doesn’t think my ass hurts like a bitch right now.

“Like I said, I’ll be at Lifetime for a few hours. If you wanna talk.”

“Bye,” Bridget says.

Denver lazily raises his hand to her, but his eyes remain on me. He’s so doing it on purpose. No one ignores Bridget. She’s like a shiny object. You can’t look away.

“Put some ice on your ass.” He winks and shuts the door before driving away.

As our car pulls up, my mom and Phil huddle inside.

Bridget stops me, placing her hand on my arm. “Am I too beautiful for this place? Do they like their women more outdoorsy or something?”

I should tell her ignoring her is probably Denver’s plan. He seems like the type of man who always has an agenda. I just need to figure out what it is.

Then again, maybe he’s already achieved it—he does own half of my dad’s company.

***

Two hours later, after a long lunch where I was too chicken-shit to ask Phil for money, we sit at the airport, waiting for his private jet to be ready for takeoff.

Mom is grabbing magazines and trying to find some fresh fruit and vegetables.

Bridget is at the desk, flirting with the guy who works there, still trying to prove that her attractiveness didn’t vanish on the flight from Dallas to Alaska. Which leaves Phil and me alone.

“I can send the plane back whenever you’re ready to come home,” he mindlessly says, his eyes on his phone.

I cross and uncross my legs. “I have to clear out his house and stuff.”

“Good thing you have time now.” He smiles at me before burying his head back into what I assume are emails.

I could respond with a dig, because the reason I have free time is that he recently fired me from the ranch. Not that he didn’t have a good reason.

I accidentally gave our organic feed animals the feed with growth hormones. Yeah, not my brightest moment. But in my defense, they should mark the containers better.

So Phil lost money since he can no longer say the meat he butchers from the poor animals is organic. He was nice about it but let me know in a kind way that maybe ranch life wasn’t for me.

I’m a business graduate from the University of Indiana. After graduation, I interviewed at so many places, but nothing panned out. Finally, I hung my head and asked Phil if he knew of anyone looking.

I told myself I was networking and using my connections like any smart person would do, but I hated having to do it.

Two weeks in, I wheeled my mail cart into the studio.

Delivering to the offices behind the set, I stopped my cart and got to chatting with a co-worker about the episode of Roswell on the night before.

I guess I forgot to put the brake on the cart because a guy rushing around bumped it and it went rolling, so I ran after it. Luckily it stopped right before getting into a camera shot.

After receiving scathing looks from the producer and cameramen, I tiptoed to retrieve it, but a cord wrapped around the wheel.

When I yanked harder to free it, the mic attached to the camera fell, then the camera guy moved to see what all the action was about—putting me on live TV. My mom calls it my ten seconds of fame.

It made the news that night in a funny blooper reel. Technically it was the guy who bumped the cart’s fault, not mine, but I was fired.

My second attempt at employment came in the form of an assistant position. My boss always got the same thing every morning—a poppyseed lemon muffin and a large coffee.

We were becoming friends, chatting about our morning commute and the weather as I set them on her desk.

Except that morning I didn’t double-check the order and she didn’t bother to look away from her computer while grabbing a bite. Turns out it was a banana nut muffin. I know what you’re thinking.

So what? Who can’t handle a different type of muffin? As I was calling 9-1-1 and stabbing her thigh with an EpiPen, I was thinking the same thing.

Add on the froyo place where I forgot to put the refrigerated items away at night or the bookstore where I was caught too many times in the corner of the romance section reading during working hours…

Things just haven’t worked out for me.

But I’m determined to make my next job work, come hell or high water.

But I can’t do that with Denver Bailey breathing down my neck, so I swallow past the big lump in my throat. “Hey, Phil?”

He peeks up and smiles. “I think this is good for you. You can figure out some things up here. Away from your regular life.”

“Well, I can’t do it with Denver Bailey.” I lay down hint number one. I’ve seen Bridget coerce him into giving her money a million times. I’m a quick learner.

“Running a business isn’t easy. You have to surround yourself with people smarter than you.”

“Meaning?”

His smile grows. “Right now, that boy is smarter than you. He knows how to run that company. Knows everything involved. You have to find a way for it to work.

“Think about it.” He taps his finger to his forehead. “You can’t take people up to the mountains. You’d get lost or eaten by a bear.” He laughs.

A tight smile strains my face. “Yeah, of course.”

“Don’t be all sour about it. Truth is truth. Facts are facts, darlin’. You’ll find what you’re meant to do one of these days but take your time up here. Go through your dad’s things. Take some time to mourn.”

“But don’t run the company?” I should hide the bitterness in my tone, but I can’t be bothered to mask it right now.

“If it was a coffee shop or a bakery, I could see it maybe. But an outdoor excursion company in Alaska?” His too-tanned face looks as though it might crack with how big his smile is.

“I just don’t think that’s you.”

So I guess that’s a no to the loan then.

“Why do you look like you’re sick?” My mom sits down next to Phil with nothing but a magazine in hand.

“I’m fine.”

“We’re talking about her future. I told her to take her time up here to figure things out.”

My mom smiles at Phil as though he’s as smart as Einstein. “Not too long. I’d hate for my daughter to turn into one of these people.”

I slide back in my chair and pull out my phone to distract myself until they leave. Don’t say I never bite my tongue.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

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Note: This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.

Beautiful Mistake

After Kyla’s friends convince her to rebound from her cheating ex-boyfriend with a one night stand, she’s sure she’s got love and lust out of her system for good. Now she can focus on her career as a marketing assistant. But little does she know that the handsome stranger who just rocked her world is her new boss. Kyla decides to keep their relationship professional, but her billionaire boss isn’t easily deterred…

Age Rating: 18+

Not all about You

From a young age, Maya Hamilton was a wild party girl who loved nothing more than letting loose and doing whatever she wanted. Jace Parker was an irresponsible frat boy who had a thing for party animals; they were perfect for each other—until out of the blue he dumped her by text. Now, two years later, they meet again as student and teacher, and Maya is hiding a life-altering secret from Jace!

Age Rating: 18+

Her Possessive Guard

When Kara’s roommate says her cousin is crashing on their couch for a few nights, Kara doesn’t think much of it. Until he shows up and they set each others’ worlds on fire.

Age Rating: 18+

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