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Sweet Sofie (The Moreno Brothers #3)

By:Elizabeth Reyes

ne's dance at Sofia's school," her mother said matter-of-factly.

Alex made a face. "You going to the dance, Sof? With who?"

Trying her hardest to hide the attitude, Sofia didn't bother looking at him. "With my friends."

"What friends?" Alex pressed.

She turned around, no longer able to conceal her agitation. "Tricia and some of the other girls, Alex."

Alex frowned. "School dances are lame, Sof."

Sofia rolled her eyes, adding salt to the guacamole. "Well, I've never been to one. I just want to try it. Do you mind?"

"Maybe I do."

"Alex, go throw the trash out and tell your brothers it's time for dinner," her mother said, dumping the onion she'd been chopping into the guacamole.

Alex grabbed the trashcan and headed out the kitchen door.

"Sofia, never mind your brother, let me know if we need to get you anything to wear. You go and have a good time." She kissed Sofia on the head. "Just be sure you come straight home after."

Sofia smiled. Finally, her chance to mingle with boys, and her brothers wouldn't be anywhere around.

*

Eric waited with Alex, Angel, and Romero outside Kennedy middle school. He wasn't sure what to expect when Sofia walked out, but he was glad Alex and Angel were there. Any guy she might be with wouldn't stick around for long after seeing them. Everyone knew about her older brothers, part of the reason he'd never had to worry about seeing Sofie with a boy.

Over the years, Eric's affection for Sofia had taken a bit of a scary turn. It had gone from being brotherly, to thinking of her in ways he knew he shouldn't. It didn't help that she was blossoming at an alarming rate. Most of her baby fat was gone, but she had more curves now than most of the girls Eric's age. The nerves he'd begun to feel around her now were partly due his attraction, and partly for the fear of one of her brothers, especially Alex, noticing the way his eyes would involuntarily wander.

Kids began spilling out of the front gate. Angel circled around in the street on his bike.

Something caught Alex's attention. "Is that Asia?"

Eric followed Alex's stare. "Yeah, that's her."

"Damn," Alex smiled, "hard to believe she's only in the eighth grade."

Asia, one of the girls who had grown up with them on the same street, had moved several blocks away last year. She wore a mini skirt with boots es with bthat went to her knees. Her tight blouse and low neckline showed just how much she'd grown up in just one year.

Angel stopped his bike and watched as she crossed the street. "That's Asia?"

"Yep." Eric nodded.

Romero circled around Eric. "What's the big deal?" Just as he was going to pass by Alex, he added, "Yeah, she's filled out pretty well for an eighth grader, but she ain't got nothing on Sofie."

Alex kicked Romero's tire, causing him to lose his balance for a second. "Don't be stupid, ass. Sofie doesn't dress like that."

Eric laughed and watched as Romero nearly lost it, but recovered last second.

"I didn't say she did. I just meant … "

Alex glared at him.

Romero frowned. "Never mind."

"Yeah, never mind," Alex muttered something else and Eric couldn't help chuckling. Romero would never learn.

Sofia walked in a group of four, but the fact that her two girlfriends were in front, and she was behind them with a boy, wiped the smile right off his face. She also wore boots to her knees, but with jeans, not a skirt. Her long, straightened hair made her look older.

"There she is." Angel started toward her. "I'll go get her."

Eric waited with Alex and Romero. There was no hiding her annoyance as she realized they were all there waiting for her. Angel rode right up to her. She said something to him, then something to the boy, before climbing on Angel's handlebars. Eric smiled. This was precisely what he was counting on.

When they were close enough, Eric saw how annoyed Sofia really was.

She looked right at Alex. "Mom did not say I had to walk home with you guys. All she said was to come straight home."

"We'll take you straight home, Sof." Alex grinned.

They were all on the move now. She rolled her eyes.

"Zat your boyfriend, Sof?" Romero asked.

Before she could answer, Alex drove his bike into the back wheel of Romero's bike. Again, Romero almost lost it.

"C'mon!" Romero yelled, barely able to recover before hitting a tree.

Sofia and Eric exchanged glances, then she huffed, "Of course not-like I'll ever have a boyfriend with you guys always around."

"Good," Alex said.

Eric smiled. His thoughts exactly.

Age 14

The swing set in their backyard held so many memories. Sofia sat at their backyard picnic table, watching her brothers and her dad take it down. It was bittersweet to see it go, but it had been years since they'd used it for anything else but to sit on. The old rusted thing had become an eyesore.

She remembered the time she jumped off the top of the slide, pretending to be Wonder Woman. Her forehead hit a sprinkler Angel had forgotten to put away, and she ended up with six stitches. Alex had been livid. At first with Romero, for being the one who suggested they jump off in the first place, then with Angel for having left the sprinkler there.




Romero and Eric strolled through the back gate of her yard.

"No way!" Romero stared at the piled up pieces of swing set on the grass. "Old Nellie's finally seen her last days?"

"Yep," Alex said, throwing a pole on the ground with the rest of the set, "this thing was falling apart already."

Eric sat down next to Sofia and nudged her. "You sad?"

Sofia smiled. "Nah, I was just thinking about all the memories we had on that thing."

"Oh, yeah," he chuckled, "remember when Romero almost hung himself?"

Sofia laughed. Poor Romero, he always learned the hard

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