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My mom hands her a wineglass. “To my best friend, coming home at last.” They clink their glasses together. I use the clinking to move around them and spy my twin sitting next to a girl with lots of dark curls. Both of their heads are together. He’s showing her one of our new Game Boys.

“Hey.” I walk over.

“Hey,” Jax responds, not lifting his head.

“Hi.” The girl looks up. I almost stop breathing as I stare at the most beautiful face I have ever seen. Shyly, she stands. She’s dressed in a bright pink dress that makes her look like she is ready to go out to dinner with my parents. I take another breath as I stare at the most incredible blue eyes. They look like the ocean. Shaking my head, I think, this girl cannot be from the skinny blond woman who is giggling with my mom. She is literally her polar opposite. Her mother has a long pointy nose; this girl has a small cute nose. Her mother’s eyes are a dull blue. The girl’s vibrant blue eyes turn up at the ends. Cat eyes. She’s like a magnificent scared kitten. In fact, that’s what I am going to call her: Kitten. Thank goodness her lips are normal. Well, they are puffy, but at least she doesn’t look scary.

“Son? You okay?” My dad interrupts my fascination with the girl.

“Sure.” I step closer to her. She smells like strawberry lip balm.

“I’m Reed,” I say, flashing her a grin, showing off my dimples. Mom says girls like dimples. Lucky for my identical twin brother and me, we have them.

Jax realizes the girl is no longer paying attention to him and looks up at us. An evil grin escapes his lips as he stands up so I can sit down.

“Sit.” I motion to the girl.

She does with a shy smile on her pretty lips. “My name is Tess Gallagher.”

With a shrug, I tell her, “I’m going to call you Kitten.”

Her big eyes widen and she nods. “Okay, Reed,” she whispers.

“So, I guess you don’t have to worry about Tess anymore. Reed seems to have claimed her.” My dad laughs at the guy standing next to him who must be her father. Thankfully, she looks a lot like him. He has brown wavy hair and the same blue eyes as hers.

He frowns. “Yeah, it appears so.”

“Oh, Robert, lighten up. They are eight for heaven’s sake,” Claire snaps. “He’s never any fun anymore.”

The room goes silent enough that Tess’s small hand finds mine. I give it a tight squeeze, and she peers up at me.

My mom unexpectedly sits down on the other side of Tess, her hand stroking her long dark curls. “Reed, Jax, why don’t you show Tess around? Maybe show her the playroom.” She smiles at us.

“You’re making a scene. Stop drinking now,” Tess’s dad hisses at Olive Oyl. All three of us look over at them. They’re in the corner behind our grand piano. I wonder if they think it’s hiding them? I glance back at Kitten—her eyes almost look too big for her head as she sucks on her bottom lip.

“Sure.” I jump up, excited to get away from her parents since they seem to upset her.

Tess stands quickly too. She’s wearing some type of shoes that are covered in glittering gold stuff. Jax has finally looked up from his Game Boy, noticing her shoes too.

“Wow, um… well, we can always play Nintendo or watch TV because in those shoes”—he shakes his head—“I don’t think you’ll be able to keep up with us.” He grumbles as we start to show her the upstairs, where our rooms are located.

Her small face looks crushed. “What do you mean? You don’t like my shoes?”

Jax stares at her. “I said you wouldn’t be able to keep up wearing them.” He points at the heels.

She looks at me as if I should tell her I like her shoes. I don’t. Instead I tell her the truth. ”Listen, Kitten, if you want to hang with us, you can’t dress like this. First, it’s stupid, and second, how are you going to be our partner in crime, wearing shoes like that? See, it just won’t work.”

“Oh… I don’t have any other clothes than this.” She motions to her ridiculous outfit. “This is all my mother lets me wear.” She nibbles on her bottom lip as if that’s going to help her.

“What? This is how you dress, every day?”

She nods her head yes and lets out a small sniffle as she looks at her stupid shoes.

“Reed, you’re making her cry. I hate it when girls cry.” Jax puts a friendly arm around her shoulders.

I stare at them, this weird tightening in my chest. Now that she is getting comfort from my brother, she is full-on crying. If I didn’t want to kick my brother, I would be laughing at him—the look on his face is priceless.