Just Once - Page 33

Daddy! Art's daughter yelled into his mind. The bad man is . . .

Over there, Art finished for her. I see him, princess!

The easy part was for Art to reach out with his will and twist the assassin's rifle into a exaggerated bow shape since (much to his surprise) both he and his little girl had a shared background in old Warner Brothers cartoons, so the concept was already clear to her.

The hard part was stopping her from using her will to do exactly the same thing to the assassin.

While technically, just like his connection with her mother, the power he shared with his daughter required mutual consent to take effect, Art was angry enough that someone had shot at the two people who meant the most to him in this world, the temptation he faced was . . . considerable. But his anger, intense as it was, was nothing compared to the pure, animalistic rage seething within his daughter at this moment, the kind of rage her mere four years of life was simply insufficient to prepare her to handle. Somebody had dared to hurt her Mommy, and tried to take her Daddy away from her before she'd even met him, and that somebody was going into time out . . . forever!

While a distant, logical part of Art's brain was telling him that he had about as much chance of explaining the true meaning of “forever” to a four-year-old as he did of getting across to her the concept of “long term consequences,” another part was catching up to the fact that he had been shot, but that the bullet had ricocheted off the shield he had instinctively thrown up the moment he touched his daughter. To make matters even more complicated, said bullet was now careening in the direction of his brother, and Art's heightened senses were also telling him that the second assassin, comfortably sequestered among the literal inner circle of Annika's bodyguards, was in the process of palming a small pistol so he could discretely finish her off while everyone's attention was elsewhere.

This would have been a lot for Art to come to terms with even without the hurricane of his daughter's fury doing its level best to inflame his own anger to combine with it into a storm which Art realized threatened to consume far more than the life of one man, the unleashed anger of a child being neither controlled, nor precise. Come what may, Art knew in that moment that he could not let his daughter do what she wanted to do, no matter how much she wanted to do it or how much he wanted to let her do it.

In other words, that was the moment Art truly became a father.

Page 33

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