Just Once - Page 32

Even though the security nearest the crowd was largely preoccupied by ushering people to safety, at least one of them saw that Art was starting to move toward Princess Annika, not away. His duty clear to him, the guard grabbed Art's wrist in a professional, but painful, manner. “Sir!” he began. “Do not--”

Several things the guard didn't see precluded him from finishing that statement however.

Behind him, the security team nearest Annika had further encircled her to shield her, while those farther away began trying to get a bead on the shooter. This was according to procedure.

What was not according to procedure was that upon hitting the ground, Annika's daughter, against all apparent logic and everything she had ever been lectured on, sprang to her feet, somehow slipped around her bodyguards before they could close the circle, and began running away from her mother.

At this point a second shot was fired, tearing up a section of concrete directly behind Annika's daughter, clearly marking her as an intended target.

Art and Caleb both saw this. The guard didn't.

He also didn't see Caleb's fist.

A solid right hook from Caleb interrupted whatever the guard was going to say, causing him to release Art from his grasp in the process. “Go!” Caleb screamed.

Art was already moving.

Other guards were also moving to grab the little girl, but not only was she moving away from them and toward Art, Art had motivation even greater than theirs to reach her first. Art had closed the gap halfway by the time Caleb went down under a pile of security, but Caleb had managed to keep them busy long enough that Art had a clear head start in the race.

A third shot was fired, impacting mere millimeters behind the running girl this time, prompting Art to redouble his efforts so he could reach her before a fourth shot was fired.

He only barely made it.

Grabbing his daughter tightly, Art drove her to the ground, shielding her with his body as he did so, and the bullet that would have hit her instead slammed directly into the back of his head.

Art never felt a thing; he was too busy focusing on his little girl.

Page 32

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