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|Beat of the Heart(Runaway Train #2) by Katie Ashley|
I laughed. “Yes. Please do.”
We turned onto a street with houses in rows pressed so tight together they even shared a retaining wall, rather than the townhouse approach I was used to back in the states. Since the house was practically on the street, we pulled into small garage. The moment I stepped out of the car, I was ambushed by AJ’s relatives.
“This is my mom, Mari,” AJ introduced, patting a woman with a shoulder-length bob haircut. With a curvy frame, she was a lot shorter than AJ, and I assumed he’d gotten his height from his father.
Mari’s arms were immediately around me, squeezing me tight. “Oh Mia, it’s such a pleasure to meet you.”
“It’s a pleasure meeting you, too. AJ has told me so much about you.” With a smile, I added, “Especially about how you like to spoil him.”
She laughed as she pulled away. “Yes, I’ve probably set him up to be utterly taken care of by you.” She wagged a finger. “But don’t you dare let him get away with that,” she instructed.
AJ snorted. “Yeah, I don’t think that will be a problem.”
Mari and I laughed. “No, I don’t think so either.”
A tall man, who could have been an older version of AJ, stepped forward. He gave me a warm smile as he offered me his hand. “I’m Joaquin.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Before I could say anything else, a handsome, muscular guy stepped in front of me. “Mucho gusto,” I began. But when I leaned in to kiss his cheeks, he jerked me to him and then proceeded to lay one on me. I squeaked against his lips before pushing my hands against his chest. When I stumbled back, the guy grinned at me and winked.
AJ huffed a frustrated breath beside me. “And that would be my dickhead brother, Antonio.”
Relief momentarily flooded me that this was AJ’s gay brother and not some overly amorous relative who had ideas of girlfriend swapping. “Uh, nice to meet you.”
“Admit it, Mia. I’m a better kisser than this douchebag.” When I widened my eyes, he laughed. “Just teasing you.” He then leaned in to bestow a chaste kiss on my cheek. “It’s a pleasure meeting the mother of my future niece.”
I gave him a sincere smile. “Thank you.”
He then grabbed AJ in a bear hug. “Glad to see you, big brother.”
AJ grunted. “I just saw you yesterday when I came by the house, twatcake,” he huffed. But I noticed he did squeeze Antonio tight.
“Where’s Cris?” AJ asked.
With a roll of his eyes, Antonio replied, “Miss Cristina took the kids up the street to the market for some sweets.”
AJ’s brows furrowed. “You mean Abuela didn’t make a cake?”
Antonio grinned. “Of course she did. It’s just Cris’s kids are too Americanized from having a gringo for a father.” He jerked his chin up at me. “Just like your daughter will probably turn her nose up at most of our food.”
I laughed. “Well, in her defense, she has been fed the majority of Italian food the last four and a half months.”
“Is she going to be back for lunch? I really wanted Mia to meet everyone.”
“I think she and the gringo mentioned taking the monsters to the zoo.”
I grinned at Antonio’s summation of his nephews, Jase and Luke. AJ had told me the five and seven year olds were a handful. I also knew from some comments AJ had made that Cris was the most Americanized of her family. I could tell he didn’t like how she distanced herself from her roots.
“Alejandro!” a voice called, cutting through the noise of who I assumed to be AJ’s aunts, uncles, and cousins behind us.
We whirled around to see a petite, elderly woman, with her flowing white hair tucked back in a bun, coming toward us. She wore a multi-colored housedress. When she got to him, AJ bent down so she could bestow two kisses on his cheeks. “Mijo,” she cried, before wrapping her arms around him. He rubbed her back and kissed the top of her grey head. All the while he spoke softly to her in Spanish. An aching burn rippled through my chest at the sweet sight before me as my mind went to Mama Sofia. It was times like these when I saw true maternal love at its finest, I realized just how much I dearly missed Mama Sofia. It was hard not becoming teary watching AJ with his abuela.
When Abuela pulled away, her gaze immediately honed in on me. I shifted nervously on my feet as she stared at me, sizing me up. “Abuela, ella es mi novia, Mia.” He turned to me and smiled. “This is my grandmother, Isabella.”
Trying to break the tension, I stepped forward. “Mucho gusto,” I said, before kissing both her cheeks. I gave her a quick hug. After I pulled away, I said to AJ, “She knows she’s part of the reason why we’re naming the baby, Isabella, right?”
He nodded and then translated to her. With a nod of her head, she then began rattling away in Spanish to AJ. When she was finished, she moved on to speak to Abby, who began conversing fluently with her in Spanish.
“What did she say?” I whispered.
“That you’re a gold-digger, and I should run away while I still can.” He shook his head. “She wonders if Bella is even mine.”
My eyes widened in horror while my hand came over my mouth. “Oh my God!”
AJ busted out laughing. “Jesus, Mia, would you get a grip? I told you no one in my family would ever think badly of you.”
“You stronzo!” I cried, smacking his arm.