Just Once - Page 41

“But it's what you wanted, right?” Gwen asked, sounding abashed. “It wasn't just me!”

“Yeah . . .” Caleb absently agreed. “Looks like we get a happy ending after all, which means opportunities to make a lot of 'King Arthur' jokes are about to--” Caleb's words choked off mid-chuckle. “Wait a minute!” he sputtered, eying Gwen with sudden dawning suspicion. “You didn't?! I mean, you couldn't have because . . .” Caleb took a deep breath to stabilize himself. “Okay,” he sighed while ruefully shaking his head. “Three strikes and I am out! I am stupid today!”

“I wasn't sure it was gonna work,” Gwen explained in a quiet defensive voice. “It wasn't like we became one person like with Mommy or Daddy, but I felt something when you picked me up, didn't you?”

In hindsight, Caleb realized that he had.

Gwen's words started to pour out of her in a guilty torrent. “Besides, Mommy and Daddy would have told me no, even though Grandpa would have said all those things on his own . . . eventually, so I didn't really change his mind! I just . . . helped . . . him . . .” She trailed off under her uncle's withering gaze. “I'm in trouble, aren't I?” Gwen asked in a small voice.

“You should be!” Caleb told her sternly. “But . . .” he amended with a grin and wink. “So long as you never do something like that ever again, I'll let it slide and not tell anyone what you did. It'll be our secret.” Caleb's face became serious once more. “But only just this once, understood?”

Gwen nodded her best grown-up nod. “Then I guess that means we can have two secrets,” she added, looking far too sly for her young age. “And I won't tell Mommy that you said the shit-bad-word.”

Caleb's lips twisted in amusement. “So it's mutual blackmail now, is that it?” he asked.

“Yep,” Gwen assured him in a precise imitation of her daddy.

“It's a deal, you little con artist!” Caleb said with a laugh as he tousled her hair.

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