“If you ever need anything, or want anything, just ask.” She winked at me and I beamed. We left her room after she grabbed her phone and went back downstairs where she returned to the kitchen and we headed into the living room. This room was huge. There was a large dark leather sectional and two chairs surrounding a large entertainment center with a big flat screen TV, shelf upon shelf of movies and TV shows both in English and other languages. This room was decorated in forest green, and at the other side of the room from the TV was a large fireplace with another couple of couches and chairs.
“I think I’m saying ‘wow’ too much, but I can’t help it,” I said and he chuckled softly.
“She did a good job on this place. C’mon, just one more stop before the tour is over. The library,” He led me up another set of stairs into the second tower. Halfway up we stopped at a door and walked into a library that was floor to ceiling books except where there was another fireplace. I looked at him in amazement. “We love books,” he said, then turning, he glanced out a window that faced the front yard and beckoned to me.
We descended back down the stairs and arrived in the living room just as the front door shut. “It is beginning to snow out there,” A deep, silky voice called and we could hear stomping coming from the foyer. Connelly smiled at me and took the lead towards the voice. “It is beautiful, just beautiful,” The voice went on and then a tall man stepped into the sitting room. Glancing into the foyer I glimpsed a long black coat and a black hat hanging on the coat hanger.
“Dad?” The man turned at Connelly’s voice and his eyes found me. “This is Kota Riley.”
“Mathias, my dear. I am a math professor at the college nearby. I’m relieved to find you still here, I was afraid I would miss you.” He smiled warmly and took my hand, but as soon as his fingers brushed my skin, I felt a slight shock that vibrated up my arm and into my chest. His hand recoiled from mine immediately and I looked to his surprised face as I again felt the same way I had the first time with Connelly. Confused, alarmed, threatened…
“What?” Connelly asked, wide eyes darting from me to Mathias.
“Nothing, just a little shock. It’s the cold, you see, always seems to make me shock everything I touch.” He laughed lightly and smiled once more. “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”
I smiled and glanced nervously at Connelly. Had it been the same shock he and I had shared? Or was it really as Mathias said? Maybe I’m just overreacting. I thought. “No, it just surprised me. But actually I think I was just leaving. I’m done practicing and you’re all about to have dinner so…”
“Nonsense, you must stay!” he said, beckoning us to follow him to the kitchen. “I was told you were having dinner with us?”
He looked at Connelly and so did I. He smiled. “I just figured you’d be hungry after all the dancing.”
I couldn’t help but smile. He was sneaky. “Okay then, I’ll stay.”
“Wonderful!” Mrs. Peters said, “But it’s not done quite yet. Run along and I’ll send for you when it’s done. The boys are upstairs in the game room.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Peters,” I said as we started toward the stairs.
“Oh please, you can call me Amelia,” She called after me and I nodded as I raced Connelly upstairs.
We found Ivan and Vincent playing video games. From what I could tell, Vincent was winning. “Hey, is dinner ready yet?” he asked.
“Not yet,” Connelly said as we sat on the couch beside them. I’d never seen the game before, but it was something involving having to kill monsters, beyond that I had no clue.
When Ivan had died twice more, I asked if I could give it a try. “Are you sure? Have you ever played this game?”
“No, but I think I can do it,” I said, sitting up straighter as he handed me the controllers. Vincent and I started at the same spots so as to make it even, and then the game began. I think it was about whoever killed the most monsters, or whoever did got bonus points, but mine and Vincent’s characters were against each other and we were racing to find some hidden artifact or treasure or something. Anyway, sometimes he would attack me if I was getting too close to the end or ahead of him, and I retaliated by sneaking up on him when he wasn’t looking and killing him. At each new level there were more, stronger monsters, more obstacles, and less amount of times we were allowed to come back to life before we lost.
Eventually, it was a close call, but I won, and everyone was cheering me on. Ivan and Connelly yelled in celebration and we all laughed. Vincent clapped me on the shoulder and told me I’d done a good job, but he wanted a rematch next time I was over because this time was only beginner’s luck. After that we played some more games, a few rounds of pool, and just enjoyed watching each other until dinner was ready.
We all sat around a large table in the open dining room attached to the kitchen. The food spread over its length looked so delicious I was afraid I was going to start drooling from just looking at it all. Mathias was at the head, with Amelia on his right, Alister and Mira on his left, Aubrey, between me and Amelia, Vincent opposite me and Connelly at my other side. Mathias cleared his throat and everyone fell silent. We bowed our heads and he said Grace before we began filling our plates. “So, darling, how was work today?” Amelia asked.
“Good, the usual, but I was caught as I was leaving by a couple people upset about their grades and needing some extra notes for the next test. That’s why I was a little late. How was practice?”
“Everyone is doing so well, I’m afraid it’s going to be hard to make my decision, but I’m sure the test will bring out everyone’s true skill under pressure. Kota is doing marvelous in her dancing.” Amelia leaned forward and caught my eye with a smile.
I smiled and fought a blush while Connelly fought laughter until I shoved him. It was so embarrassing being bragged about in front of everyone. I just tried to concentrate on my food while I listened to everyone else’s conversations. Ivan told how I beat Vincent at the video game and everyone laughed. Mathias asked me a few questions, trying to get to know me, like how long I’d lived in Maxville, if I had traveled much, where I worked, and what I aspired to be. I could answer everything except the last one. “I’m not really sure about that,” I said. “My mom asks me all the time and says I need to start getting ready for college now, but I don’t know yet. She tried to force my sister to go to Law School even though she didn’t want to, and she ended up going to an art school without telling her.”
“Ah,” he said in understanding, “So your dilemma is not only the pressure from your mother, but what degree will be enjoyable versus which one will make money. Right?”
“Right. I’m trying to find the one that has both,” I said and he and Amelia smiled.
“Well, if you ever need any help with that, or if you need help on anything, just let me know and I will do my best. I could even write you a recommendation letter if you like.” The warmth from his smile traveled into his moss-green eyes.
“Wow, thanks,” I said, surprised. “I’ve never met anyone like you, any of you, and I’m so happy you decided to move here.”
“We are too,” Amelia agreed, “This place is just beautiful.”
When dinner was done we all helped clean the table, or at least I tried to help before they shooed me away saying I was the guest. By that time it was late and I was starting to get tired. I thanked everyone for the wonderful welcome and for allowing me to practice with them before Connelly led me out to the car. It was pitch black outside of the porch light and snow crunched lightly under our feet while still more fell in delicate snowflakes.
“So, how did you like it? Everyone?” he asked as he started the engine.
“It was awesome. They’re great! Everyone was so nice, except for…”
“They’ll come around. They’re more temperamental than everyone else. Mira is kind of big-headed you know, and Alister is just aggressive, but most of the time I think he’s like that because of Mira.” He laughed and shrugged.
“How long have they been together?”
“A few years now, I think. More or less,” he said as we left the driveway and started along the deserted road.
“Can I ask you a question?” I was kind of unsure if I should ask this, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.
“If Alister’s not related to you, where are his parents?”
Connelly was quiet for a minute, and I was about to apologize and tell him to forget it when he answered. “He and Aubrey are brother and sister, but no they’re not related to us. Several years back our parents were really close friends with their parents, but when they died in an accident, we took them in. We’ve just been so close for so long, it just seems like we’re family. I know that’s confusing, especially considering how Mira and Alister are together, but it’s the truth. They had always been interested in each other before anyway.”
“No, I understand. That’s terrible,” I said, shaking my head. No wonder Alister has problems. I thought.
“Yeah, it’s actually amazing how Aubrey can be the way she is, but I think she just focuses on the positives going on in her life whereas Alister has trouble forgetting the negatives that have happened in his. He’s actually gotten better, believe it or not.” He laughed now, at the surprised look on my face. “Yeah, used to be, he couldn’t dance with anyone but Mira, and I mean not just wouldn’t dance with them but actually couldn’t, like she was the only one he could put up with. But anyway, enough about them, when do you want to come over again?”
I laughed at this and he smiled. “I don’t know, I’ll have to see the next day I’m off.”
We pulled into my driveway at half-passed ten o’clock. “Have a good night,” he said, smiling as I stepped out of the car.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” I replied and then shut the door and waved as he backed out and drove off.
When I got to the porch, my dad opened the door and said, “Hey, who was driving that sweet car?”
I just smiled. “My dance partner.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “I want to meet him.”