Just Once - Page 16

Art made it a point to see Annika every day after that. Sometimes she even saw him too, and that was . . . nice.

Sometimes one of her guards saw him instead, and that was . . . less nice, but only the Captain seemed inclined to do more than threaten bodily harm, and after a couple of weeks a few of the guards even took to nodding in Art's direction and flashing him a knowing smile so long as the Captain wasn't in a position to see them.

It hadn't been hard for Art to figure out where Annika must have been staying, seeing as she had walked away in the direction of the only parcel of government land adjoining his grandfather's property. Art had had no idea that land had any use whatsoever, much less as an isolated compound complete with armed security, but then again, he figured not advertising that fact was probably the point. However much he wanted to get closer to Annika, Art usually ended up setting himself up with a pair of binoculars and perching in one of his grandfather's trees, particularly after the first time the Captain had spotted him.

Art had been skirting the borders of his grandfather's land while he looked for a comfortable place to set up for the day, when he chanced upon the Captain and one his men patrolling on their side of the border. Art froze in shock at the sight of the Captain's purple-faced fury, and only the Captain's precision in lining up a killing shot gave the Captain's companion a chance to hiss a warning to his superior. The barrage of insults and threats which followed dissuaded Art of the notion that the Captain had been merely bluffing, and he took pains to ensure the Captain never spotted him again after that.

For the first few days it was only a matter of chance if Art got a glimpse of Annika, but soon she took to strolling within sight of the perimeter, lingering for as long as she could. Once, when the Captain was otherwise occupied, she even spread a blanket for a picnic lunch, leisurely enjoying her meal and surreptitiously toasting Art with her glass whenever she wasn't being observed by anyone other than Art.

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