Just Once - Page 12

Art's brain officially disavowed him at that point, and he could feel his face burning crimson. “Um . . .” he stammered. “You'll probably need . . . um . . . help.” Art's face felt so hot that he was absolutely sure that if he pressed his cheek to the grass he could have started a forest fire.

To her credit, Annika noticed his discomfort, but genteelly declined to comment on it. “I see,” she said softly. “I believe I shall ask my hosts for the particulars when I see them next.”

“Yeah . . . good idea!” Art said with feeling. Only a slight flushing of Annika's cheeks indicated that she had guessed the generalities behind Art's discomfort.

Unfortunately for Art, that only served to make her even more attractive, and his tongue joined his brain in a general strike, leaving his eyes to make up the difference.

Annika fidgeted slightly under his scrutiny, distracting Art even further in the process. “You're staring at me,” she observed in a whisper. “Why?”

Art heard himself answering before he even realized he was speaking. “Because there's nothing else I'd rather be doing,” he said from his heart. “And because unless I turn my head, I can't really see anything else with you still straddling me.”

Now it was Annika's turn to get flustered. “Oh, of course,” she said softly, then her own face began to burn an even brighter red than Art's. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “Oh dear! I was so comfortable that I didn't realize--” She made an obvious effort to shut that line of thought off before she said any more. “I mean . . .” she started again, then realized that she was still straddling him, and promptly fell over into the grass in her haste to dismount him.

The both lay there, side by side in silence, for an awkward moment.

Then their mutual laughter began.

It echoed loudly about the woods, only slackening when they both began to run out of breath.

“A . . . pleasure to meet you too, Annika,” Art finally managed to wheeze.

“Perhaps a bit . . . too much of a pleasure,” Annika gasped and giggled in equal measures.

That triggered another round of laughter from them both.

Page 12

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