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He gives me a sexy, slow smile that makes my heart skip a beat and my tears stall. “Fair enough. I love you. Now, let’s get you inside.” I let out a dreamy sigh, most of my boiling fear about meeting his parents simmering down to low heat. “I love you too, Z. Let’s do this.” As I release my seat belt, I pull down his visor and look in the mirror, swiping the evidence of my emotional state away. I’m glad I hadn’t bothered with makeup today or I’d be a hot mess. Z opens my door just as I flip the visor back up, and I let him help me down from the high seat. Before we even get halfway up the walkway, the door opens and a tall woman with gorgeous black hair and the best tan in history rushes out onto the wraparound porch. She’s wiping her hands on a dishtowel, but tosses it to the ground as she suddenly takes off in a sprint toward us. I let go of Z’s hand, scared I’ll get knocked over if she takes a flying leap into his arms. But to my surprise, it’s me she’s suddenly encircled her entire long, lithe body around like a praying mantis around a branch. I feel like, if I weren’t so short in comparison, her mile-long legs would join the rest of her in cocooning me. “Ma,” Z nudges gently. “Give me a minute, boy,” she says at the top of my head, where her cheek rests. She smells like cookies and light perfume, and even though I’d normally find hugging a complete stranger really awkward, all I feel is comfort radiating from her and into my very soul. “Ma.” Z tries again, a little more sternly this time, but it’s me who swats blindly at him. “Zzzzz. I’m super green, babe,” I tell him. He chuckles. “Quoting our favorite movie. You must be good.” He clears his throat. “Thought you weren’t a hugger though. Gettin’ kinda jealous here.” With a chuckle, his mom unfurls and turns toward him. When she hugs him, her long arms barely make it all the way around his hulking form, but she’s not too shy of being as tall as him. “There’s my little boy.” Her hand comes up to rub his shaved head and he turns his face against her shoulder to look at me, grin, and roll his eyes. I can’t help but giggle. “Louisa,” a deep male voice comes from the porch, and I turn to see a very handsome older man bent down, picking up the dishtowel she’d dropped. “Let our boy breathe.” Ah, this must be Z’s dad, and I try to keep the shocked look off my face as he comes down the front steps and makes his way toward us. I was wrong. So, so wrong. Z obviously got his stature from his mom, because I can almost look this man in his eye. He can’t be more than 5’5”, but goodness he is good-looking. When Z’s mom finally lets him go, she steps back and allows his dad a turn, and it’s not one of those man-hugs with a slap on the back. It’s a full on, loving hug from a father to his “little boy,” only Z towers over him and rests his cheek on the top of his head the way Louisa did to me. I’ve taken in every detail of this exchange since the woman had opened her front door, because it’s so different from what happens whenever I go home for a visit—which is a very, very rare occasion. There are no loving hugs. Only cold greetings and the usual questions of when I’ll meet a man worthy enough to be part of our hoity-toity family. Z lets go but puts his hand on his dad’s shoulder and gives it a squeeze as he faces me. “Kayan, this is my dad and mom, Mateo and Louisa Del Castillo. Ma, Pop, this is my Kayan.” My Kayan. He introduced me to his parents as his Kayan. My nose tingles with tears wanting to form once again, but I fight them with all my might. I will not cry in the first five minutes of meeting these people. How freaking embarrassing would that be? “It’s nice to meet y’all,” I squeak out, my throat tight with trying to keep my emotions under control. His dad reaches out and tugs his wife into his side, wrapping his arm around her hips with possession and pride. Her arm comes to rest around the top of his shoulders, and she places a kiss on the top of his bald head. I feel my cheeks pinken. No way would my parents be caught dead showing any kind of PDA. “It’s truly wonderful to meet you, honey. Eleazar has talked about you nonstop, and we feel like we already know you,” she says, her face soft and warm as her voice.
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