Just Once - Page 6

“Yep,” Art confirmed.

“Okaaay,” Caleb said exactly the same way he had said it a moment earlier. “So . . . same basic question as before, but--”

“But why would a princess be anywhere near Grandpa's farm so I could talk to her even once?” his brother finished for him, sounding exasperated.

Caleb nodded.

“Look!” Art snapped. “It's a long, weird story, and what she was doing there is the least weird part of it, so shut up and let me talk, okay?”

“Okay, okay!” Caleb agreed. “So talk already!”

“Thank you!” Art huffed, then he sighed. “Okay . . . I don't really know where to start this, so I'm just going to start at the beginning . . .”


“Mom!” Art whined, sounding far more petulant than he had any right to at seventeen. “I hate this place!”

“No you don't, Arthur,” his mother chided him, sounding tired.

She was the midpoint between the brother's colorization, though Caleb had inherited his dark hair from her. Both brothers had their mother's blue eyes, but right now those eyes were rimmed with exhaustion, making her petite features less pretty than they normally were. (The boys got their noses from their father.) She pushed an errant strand of hair out of her face and considered her oldest son as sternly as she could manage.

It wasn't her best effort.

Even Art, angry and seventeen as he was, couldn't ignore how that meant as bad off as he thought she had been since his father had left them, she was actually even worse if that was all the fire she could muster in the face of his display of childish temper.

He gulped in shame, then looked down past his white T-shirt and jeans to consider his faded blue sneakers for a few seconds before facing his mother's gaze again. “You're right, Mom, I don't,” he softly conceded. “But I get bored here when we're only visiting for a week! A whole summer of this place will drive me crazy, I just know it!”

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