Soldier Mine (Chapter Three: Petr, page 1 of 6)


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Todd's sister returns to clear my table. I lean back and watch her. She's unnaturally pretty with elfin features, hazel eyes and the same dirty blonde hair color that Todd has. Her long, straight hair is in a loose ponytail. She smells like French fries from working here, and her frame is toned and shapely.

After the mess with Brianna, I kinda feel like I need to talk to someone, even if I don't directly discuss what happened. I'm extroverted by nature, and it's still a difficult adjustment not being able to call my brother Mikael whenever I want to chat. If I tell my sister, Katya, that I saw Brianna …

I'll never hear the end of it. I'll save that discussion for later.

Claudia isn't the warm type. She operates with absent-minded detachment, not quite cold, but not overly friendly either. I can't quite figure out if she does it on purpose or is naturally standoffish.

"Todd's a good kid," I say.

She glances at me, her expression softening. "Yeah. He is. Sorry if he's bugging you."

"Not at all. Kids ask what adults are afraid to about my leg," I smile. "It doesn't bother me. I think it's cool to have a war wound."

"You think your bionic leg is cool?" Her nose wrinkles, as if she isn't certain what to think of that.

I laugh. I have to admit - I enjoy messing with people about my leg. It makes everyone uncomfortable, with the exception of my father, who shares my childlike fascination with the prosthetic limb.

Claudia is blushing. "You've got good … um, spirit about it, if nothing else."

"Did you ask her?" Todd hisses. He's creeping towards us.

Claudia's gaze sharpens. "Ask me what?"

He eases back. "Nothing."

"Todd." Her cool look moves from him to me.

Sensing my danger, I manage not to smile. "I offered to take him to karate classes. I planned on asking you for your permission," I tell her.

"You don't ask a complete stranger to take you places," she scolds her brother.

"I know, but -"

"Homework. Now."

Todd slinks off.

I give him a sympathetic smile. Claudia is calmer than my fireball of a sister, but I still know what it means to be on the receiving end of an angry sister. "I'm not a complete stranger," I try.

She glares at me and snatches the napkin from the table.

"Okay. I crossed a line." I hold up my hands. "My apologies."

Claudia strides back to the counter and deposits the dirty dishes in bins.

Todd appears crestfallen. I shrug at him. The kid has an issue, one he's skirting despite talking to me about learning to fight, since I wouldn't answer his earlier questions. I'm not seeing anything that leads me into the direction of what his issue might be, and his sister isn't the kind to open up easily.

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