Just Once - Page 13

“Maybe a bit,” Art eventually conceded. “But handshakes are so passe these days, don't you think?” he asked, grinning at Annika.

“Oh, indeed!” she agreed with an enthusiastic nod. “Definitely time for a new tradition!”

“We could be trendsetters!” Art enthused. He settled back comfortably into the grass and leaves beneath him. “I always wanted to be a trendsetter,” he added along with a wink.

Annika recoiled a bit in mock horror. “Oh, let's not be that!” she protested. “It's not nearly as fun as most people think!”

Art considered that for a moment, then rolled over on his side and propped himself up on his elbow so he could better look at her. “Fair enough,” he said. “We'll do what you want to do instead.” Much like his actions which had moved him even closer to Annika, Art's words were innocent enough.

And in their own way, so were the actions that Annika followed them with.

She looked at him for a moment, smiled a slow-motion smile that moved even slower ever after in Art's memory, then she began to lean in to kiss him.

Art had just enough time to register the shock of what was happening, and to frantically wonder what he should do. The answer came to him almost immediately after, and that was to NOT move. He really didn't need someone to tell him that, much less somebody flanked by five other somebodies, all carrying assault rifles.

But that's what he got.

In retrospect, Art realized that while he had understandably been too distracted to hear their approach, he had frozen the moment the men had appeared. They may have been dressed like hunters, but unless deer had started shooting back, no hunter needed the kind of armaments they were carrying. Art couldn't recognize the precise make of their weapons, but he didn't really have to recognize the weapons to recognize the men's collective willingness to use said weapons. In light of that, Art anticipated and had prudently complied with their leader's directive to remain still even before it had been uttered.

Annika seemed momentarily perplexed by Art's sudden hesitation, but she understood as soon as she heard the shouted order. “Really, Captain!” she sighed. “Your timing is simply atrocious!”

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