Just Once - Page 36

“Never denied it,” Caleb conceded with a manic grin, then turned his attention back to the security he had so effortlessly tossed aside. “Come on!” he taunted. “What are you waiting for?”

Nobody in the vicinity, be they security or bystander, rose to Caleb's challenge . . . or even moved beyond the barely noticeable signs of their breathing.

“Uh . . . Art?” Caleb asked his brother in a quiet voice.

“Yes, Caleb?” Art responded, his voice heavy with patently false patience.

“What are they waiting for?” Caleb wanted to know.

“They're all in Daddy-style time-out!” the little girl in Art's arms chimed in brightly, then she pouted. “Even the ones who should be in Gwen-style time-out.”

“Don't start,” Art chided her.

Caleb glanced around and finally noticed it wasn't just the security who was unmoving, but even the fleeing crowd was remaining stock-still, frozen in mid-flight. “Huh,” Caleb breathed. “We'll that's kinda . . . disappointing, cool, but disappointing.”

“You're handling all this really well, by the way,” Art told his brother.

“I'm really not,” Caleb assured him, his accent starting to fade as his emotions cooled. “So do let me know when would be an opportune time for me to have a retroactive panic attack, will you?”

“You got it, bro.” Art said with a smile.

Caleb exhaled a precise amount of air before speaking. “So . . .” he began. “I have a few questions . . .”

Art rolled his eyes. “Caleb, do we really gotta do this now?”

“Hey!” Caleb snapped. “You're the one who ended the battle with a wave of your magic pixie wand, and left me all fired up with nothin' to do!”

“Oh, little brother,” Art sighed. “This wasn't the real battle. The real battle is just about to start.”

“What do you--” Caleb started to ask, only to be interrupted by Annika's smooth voice.

“Hello, Arthur,” she said. “You're looking well.”

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