Just Once - Page 26

When Art didn't answer, Caleb's tone became more insistent. “Art,” he said. “Look at me.”

Art complied without saying a word.

One look at his brother's face told Caleb everything he needed to know. “Oh shit,” he swore without meaning to. “Art . . .”

“Forget it,” his brother interrupted, his expression daring Caleb to say something that would give Art an excuse to pound him into the ground.

“Art . . .” Caleb began again.

“Just drop it!” Art snarled. “It's no big deal.”

Caleb pursed his lips together and nodded, but in consideration, not in agreement. “It's times like this, big brother, that remind me that I am the one who inherited all of Dad's far from insignificant skills at lying, not you, which places us both at the disadvantage at the moment.”

Art looked at his brother quizzically.

“Because, you see,” Caleb continued, “my natural inclination is to lie my way out of this predicament, but what the situation requires is both honesty and tact, which are, alas, your areas of expertise, not mine.” Caleb's face held his deadpan expression throughout his little monologue perfectly, but his eyes willingly betrayed him by being both serious and pleading.

Art snorted, choking on several emotions at once, but mostly on fondness and amusement. “Let me help you out then,” he said with a chuckle. “You want to say that you believe me, but in your heart of hearts you require proof to believe something so outside your understanding of the nature of reality, a requirement more virtue than fault, albeit decidedly inconvenient under the present circumstances.”

Caleb's eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Have you been making fun of me behind my back about the way I talk?” he asked. “Because it sounds like you've been practicing.”

“A little bit,” Art admitted with a grin. “Shall I continue?”

“Please do,” Caleb invited, a pleased smile ever so slightly spoiling his attempt at detached gentility.

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