Just Once - Page 31

Annika smiled warmly at Art and nodded. Art nodded in return, mouthing the words “Thank you,” as he did so.

Annika's smile grew even warmer.

“It's not going to be easy not being a part of her life, makes me feel too much like Dad, you know?” Art admitted in a whisper to his brother. “But at least it's for a better reason than meeting a bleach-blond at the Piggly Wiggly.”

Caleb was still trying to come up with something to say to that when the first gunshot was fired.

Right before that happened, the little girl, taking advantage of Annika's momentary distraction at seeing Art again, had come closer than ever to squirming out of her mother's grip. This had the fortuitous side-effect of moving both mother and daughter out of the path of the intended shot, but the bullet still grazed Annika's arm enough that one of her sleeves erupted in crimson, the shock causing her to drop her daughter.

Lots of things started happening at once at this point.

“Run!” Art bellowed like he was general on a battlefield of old, and most of the crowd needed no encouragement to do just that so long as it was away from the danger.

Art wasn't talking to them though . . . he was talking to himself and to his brother.

Once, years ago, Art and Caleb had been setting off fireworks with a friend, and one of the bottle rockets ended up landing in a dry bush and setting it on fire. Their friend had yelled “Run!” and Art and Caleb, both giddy from a surge of surprise-induced panic, ran back toward the car to make good their escape, laughing the entire way.

Their laughter died though when they saw that their friend, a firefighter in training, had run toward the fire to extinguish it before it spread.

Art and Caleb swore right then and there that the next time someone yelled “run,” they'd make damn sure they ran in the right direction!

Page 31

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