Constance joined Mr. Hamlin at his side, tenderly wrapping her arm around his waist.

“Miles, Evie, Matthew,” she said, her voice braking the brief silence, “Allow me to introduce Kat Wheeler.”

Her speech was so proper that I wasn’t entirely sure I shouldn’t curtsy.

“It’s very nice to meet you all, thank you so much for inviting me to stay in your home.”

It was a speech my dad insisted I give upon my arrival.

“You’re always very welcome in our home, Kat,” Mr. Hamlin said.

Miles moved first, offering his hand.  I leaned in to accept it, his grip was strong and hard as stone, and excessively warm.

“Thank you, sir,” I replied.

Miles laughed, “Please, you’ll make me feel like an old man, do call me Miles.”

“Ok…Miles.”  I smiled nervously.  My dad always said it was disrespectful to address an adult by their first name.  I guess he can’t get mad if they insist.

When Miles stepped back, Evie practically bounced into the space he left.  Then, she stopped suddenly in front of me with a glint of surprise in her eyes.  The movement was a far cry from the graceful saunter down the stairs she had just displayed.  After a split second delay, she finally spoke.

“Hi, Kat!” she called enthusiastically as she reached forward to hug me and kiss my cheek.  Then, she backed off quickly, perhaps worried that I would be overwhelmed by the attention.  There was shock in my eyes too, surprised at how accepted I was already.  Her eyes assessed me with a slight furrow flitting across her brow.

“Your hands and face are so cold,” she said.

It was a stark contrast from the exceeding warmth of their skin.  The heat from my sudden embarrassment easily corrected the problem.

Matthew, the face previously unknown to me casually greeted, “What’s up?”

The brown-eyed boy punctuated his statement with an upward jerk of his chin.  He was definitely not the same genetic material as the rest of this clan.  Final answer, I decided.

I smiled in reply.

“Hey, what happened to your face?”  Matt asked excitedly.

His boldness painted a new wave of crimson across my cheeks.  I naively hoped my injury would go unnoticed.  Obviously the truth was out, and realizing full well that I had never been in a real fight in my life, I quickly lied.  “Psh…you should see the other guy,” I said, loosely holding up my right fist.

Matt smiled with morbid delight.  “Nice.”  Everyone else chuckled.

Matt,” Miles started, shooting him a warning glance, “is the newest member to our happy home.”  My unasked question wasn’t really answered, but I didn’t want to be intrusive.  I simply smiled and nodded and wondered why my dad hadn’t mentioned him before.

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