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“I can’t imagine living far away from my mom after I had kids,” Eve said.

“My mom and Margie love each other but are so much alike that they butt heads constantly. My mom stayed with her for a few months after the twins were born, and Margie’s husband said it was like a war zone every day. Luz and I are more like our dad. He calls my mom his little spitfire because she is barely five feet tall, but when she gets mad, watch out. Once, when I was a teenager and had smarted off about something, she actually took her shoe off and started chasing me around the room with it. When she couldn’t catch me, she threw it at me.”

“Oh my God,” Eve said, laughing.

“Oh, yeah. My mom doesn’t take crap, and she is crazy protective.”

“She sounds amazing,” Eve said.

“My dad definitely thinks so. He was raised on the East Coast, and instead of going to college like his family wanted, he joined the army and got stationed in Texas. He met my mom on a weekend pass and married her. When my dad got out, he joined the police department, and my mom stayed home with us for a few years, picking up waitressing jobs at night when my dad was home. When we were in school all day, my mom started waitressing full time, and on weekends we always did things as a family. It taught me how to be responsible and take care of myself.”

Oliver stopped talking and noticed that Eve had become really quiet. Reaching across to take her hand, he squeezed it gently. “Hey, you okay?”

“Just nervous,” she said.

“It’s okay, dulzura,” he said. “They’re going to love you.”

AS OLIVER PARKED the car in front of a large home surrounded by trees, Eve had a hard time catching her breath. She’d met a few boyfriends’ parents before, but this was different. She had never experienced roiling nausea at the thought of someone’s parents hating her, had never really been worried about impressing people in general, but these people had created Oliver—amazing, funny, handsome Oliver—and she wanted them to like her.

Correction: She needed them to like her.

“We’re here,” Oliver said.

Giant redwood pines surrounded the dark brown house with tan trim and the colorful flower beds drawing attention to the brick walkway. The heavy oak front door had an intricate beveled-glass window with a pine tree in the center. Beyond the house, Eve caught glimpses of blue water and couldn’t wait to see the full impact of the view.

“It’s beautiful,” Eve breathed.

“Yeah, my mother adores it. When my grandfather died, it turned out he hadn’t completely written my parents off the way they’d thought. He hadn’t spoken to my father in years, so the inheritance he left them came as a surprise. My dad was always good with money, and by the time he’d retired, he’d tripled the money my grandfather had left him, so he started looking for a beautiful place with mild weather. He got this place for a relatively good price when the market crashed a few years ago.” Oliver grinned at her across the top of the car. “Wait until you see the view.”

Eve had barely shut her door when an older man and woman came out of the house. The woman squealed and rushed toward Oliver, hugging him fiercely before cupping his bruised face in her hands. “Ah, mijo, what have you done to yourself?”

“Hey, Mom, don’t worry about it,” Oliver said, his cheeks rosy red. Eve couldn’t stop the giddy bubbling in her chest as she watched him greet his mom and then his father. She’d already known he was a good guy who loved his family, but seeing it in person was different.

“Mom, Dad, this is Evelyn Reynolds, the friend I told you was coming,” Oliver sai

d. Eve shot him a surprised glance, and he added, “I called them while I was waiting for you to pack.”

She came around the front of the car to greet them, holding her hand out. “Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Martinez. It’s so nice to meet you. You can call me Eve.”

“Eve, it’s a pleasure to have you. You may call me Edward.” Oliver’s dad took her hand in his and squeezed it.

“Oh, it is so nice to meet you.” Oliver’s mom pulled her in for a hug. “I am Maria. I had given up on my Oliver ever bringing a girl home.”

“Don’t listen to her,” Oliver said. When Eve caught his eye, he made the crazy symbol by his head, making her giggle.

“Come in. We’ll leave the men to get the bags, and I’ll show you the house. Are you thirsty? I can get you something to drink.”

“I am fine, thank you,” Eve said. Oliver’s mother laced her arm through Eve’s and led her inside. The house was an open floor plan, with the kitchen and living and dining rooms flowing into one another. It was three times as big as her apartment. The beautiful wood walls of the living room were adorned with art and photographs, and a large bay window showed off a breathtaking ocean view. The dining room had a long table with eight chairs. On the wall hung an abstract painting with vibrant colors that drew out the red cushions on each chair.

And the kitchen . . . Well, if Eve ever learned to cook, this would be her dream kitchen, with an enormous island in the center and ample cabinet space. She could put a thousand dishes in all the cupboards and never have to do dishes again. Eve bit back a laugh at the thought, but endless dish storage aside, it was an extraordinary home.

“Oliver will have to take you down to the beach and into town while you’re here. Is this your first time in Mendocino?” Maria asked.

“Yes, it is. Your home is gorgeous.”

“Thank you. It’s larger than our old house but is actually only two bedrooms and two bathrooms, while our first home was three bedrooms and one bathroom. We do have a cabin and a pull-out couch, though, so we can host quite a few people, which is great when our kids come to visit.” Maria’s smile was kind as she added, “Especially when they bring guests.”

“I hope I am not imposing, it was so last minute—”