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Sweet Sofie (The Moreno Brothers #3)

By:Elizabeth Reyes

who was shaking his head disapprovingly.

Eric started reading and quickly realized he'd been had. He was on the wrong page. Romero chuckled when the teacher told Eric he wasn't even on the right chapter.

"Is something funny, Mr. Romero?"

Romero had a bad case of the giggles by now, and couldn't even answer her. He looked down at his book, biting his lip, and shook his head. When Eric saw Romero was unable to control his laughter, he started chuckling also.

"Alright, I've had enough of you two," she snapped. "You can both go see Mrs. Powell, right now!"

Even then, Romero was still laugh bi still ing. Eric didn't even want to look at him. He'd managed to stop laughing. Making the mistake of glancing up at Romero's stupid face, he cracked up again.

"Take your things with you, because I'm asking her to keep you for the rest of the day."

When they walked out the door, Eric frowned at Romero and pushed him. "You're stupid."

Romero laughed. "You're the one."

"Man, I'm gonna be so busted when I get home." Eric shook his head.

"Not as busted as Angel."

Eric looked at him, confused, and then turned in the direction Romero was staring. There were two teachers trying to pull Angel off of Brandon on the playground. Angel was furious and continued to try to kick Brandon. Brandon lay there on the ground with his hands over his face.

Sofia stood off to the side, close to tears. Eric and Romero ran toward the crowd. "I told you not to mess with my sister," Angel yelled.

"That's enough!" Mr. Manning, the playground proctor, warned. He was finally able to pull Angel away.

Brandon had a bloody nose and a fat lip.

Eric turned to Sofia. "What happened?

"He pulled my skirt up."

Eric frowned, suddenly glad Angel had kicked Brandon's ass. He glared at Brandon, wishing he could have a shot at him, too.

They walked Angel away. Eric and Romero followed; they'd been sent to the principal's office and knew that's where Angel was headed. Eric looked back at Brandon who was now on his feet, crying, as the other teacher checked his face. He glanced over at Sofia, who stood there and watched as they took Angel away. Something tugged at his heart when he noticed her quivering lip.

*

The walk home could not have been any more somber. Angel didn't walk with them like he usually did. He'd been suspended and sent home. Eric and Romero were both looking at an entire week of detention. Sofia was the only one not in trouble, but you wouldn't know it by looking at her. The look on her face said it all. She felt terrible about Angel getting in trouble because of her.

They reached Romero's house first, and he went in. Sofia and Eric continued down the sidewalk. Eric looked at her. Her eyes red rimmed and welled up with tears. Suddenly he felt panicked. He wasn't used to dealing with girls crying. And something about seeing Sofia cry made it worse.

"Don't cry, Sofie," he almost begged. "Angel's gonna be okay."

"My dad's gonna be so mad, this is the second fight he's gotten into."

"Yeah, but the first one wasn't his fault, remember? Even the principal said so." Though with their school's zero-tolerance policy, he'd been he'd suspended anyway.

They reached Eric's house, but he kept walking with Sofia. "You coming over?" she asked. "'Cause I'm pretty sure Angel's not gonna be able to come out today."

"I know. I just wanna walk you all the way home."

Sofia smiled weakly, and wiped her eyes. She looked so sad-her cheeks all flushed and wet. Eric felt like hugging her. He pressed his lips together hard. That damn Brandon.

He didn't quite understand it at the time. He'd always seen Sofia as his best friend's chubby little sister. He'd felt just as protective as her brothers did when anyone messed with her. But lately, he'd felt a different connection with her. She seemed to turn to him a lot now, to help her out when her brothers were being too domineering, and for some reason, he liked it.

CHAPTER 2

The Wonder Years

Age 13

Ever since the boys had moved on to high school, things had been different. Sofia finally had some freedom. A good thing too, because now that she'd lost a few pounds, boys were beginning to notice her. She could actually have a conversation with them during lunch without worrying about one of her brothers breathing down their necks. Even Romero, but mostly Eric, had gotten in on the big brother act. As if three brothers weren't enough.

Everything at home remained the same. Her brothers' overbearing natures hadn't changed at all. With them feeding off her dad's old school mentality about the importance of the older brother role, their interferences began to reach new heights.

Sofia waited for Angel to leave the kitchen before asking her mom about the after-school dance that Friday. Her mom chopped onions while Sofia helped with the guacamole. She glanced back to make sure Angel had walked out.

"They're having a Valentine's dance this Friday after school. It's just a two hour thing. I was thinking of going. Is that okay?"

Her mom turned to her and smiled. "Did someone ask you to the dance?"

Sofia shook her head. They weren't noticing her that much yet, but someone had asked if she would be there. "No. It's just going to be me and Tricia and some of the other girls from the running team."

"I don't see why not." Her mom rinsed her hands in the sink.




Alex walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Sofia pressed her lips together, willing her mom not to say anything about the dance in front of him. But all her mental efforts were in vain.

"Are you going to wear anything special to the dance, or is it just casual?"

Sofia kept her eyes on the avocado she mashed in the bowl, but from the corner of her eye, she saw they n ahad Alex's attention. "What dance?"

"The Valenti

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