Just Once - Page 3

The first time the truck had swerved, the younger brother had just laughed at his passenger.

He didn't laugh this time though. “God damn it, Art!” he snarled. “What the hell is wrong with you?” He aimed an awkward return punch at his brother.

“It shut you up, didn't it?” Art asked in a fury as cold as deep winter as he contemptuously used his left hand to deflect the poorly thrown fist.

“So would a trip to the morgue, but . . .” his brother began, then visibly changed his mind upon seeing Art's expression. “You know what?” he amended. “Just forget I started to say that.”

“Good plan,” Art advised him, his voice as stiff as his posture.

“Look, Art,” his brother said after a silence of several minutes. “I'm sorry I said you hit like a princess.”

“It's alright, Caleb,” Art replied, sounding wary. “If you mean that.”

“Oh, I do!” Caleb assured him with a nasty grin as he rubbed his injured shoulder with his free hand. “You hit at least as hard as a queen!”

“You would know,” Art answered with a grin even nastier than his brother's. “If I hadn't pulled him off you, that drag queen back on Bourbon Street would have beat you within an inch of your life after you insulted his wig.”

Now it was Caleb's turn for his face and posture to go stiff. “I thought we agreed never to talk about that!” he said, his voice full of wounded pride and reproach.

“So we did,” his brother agreed, the very picture of amiability. “That's what brothers do, don't they? Keep each others secrets?”

Caleb's lips pursed wryly. “So it's blackmail now, is that it?” he asked.

“Yep,” Art assured him.

Caleb's answering chuckle was good-natured and without even a trace of offense. “I can work with that, but . . .”

He deliberately trailed off, prompting his brother to exhale an exasperated sigh and ask him, “But what?”

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