Or was it more than that?
“There’s always that risk,” Luca said. “But things will be fine. I wouldn’t have called Mia if I didn’t think I could trust her. Carla, on the other hand, would blab to everyone. And even if they did find out, it will be okay. I think you and I are getting along pretty well and can probably work out a custody arrangement we’re both comfortable with. Eva seems to have taken to me. Besides, it’s not like we’re engaged or something.”
Claire was following along until he brought up that last point. It was true, but for some reason it bothered her to hear him say it so dismissively. It must be because it felt like something. It felt like more than it was because of their daughter and the strange circumstances. In truth, all they’d shared was a kiss. They hadn’t even gone out on a date. Whatever this beach house arrangement was, it wasn’t a date.
Pulling away so he wouldn’t see the touch of disappointment in her eyes, she started to walk from the kitchen. “I’m going to spiffy up for company.”
“Okay,” she heard Luca say, but she didn’t turn around.
In her suite, she changed from her yoga pants into a sundress, then sat at her vanity staring at herself in the mirror. She fussed with her hair for a while, not happy, but finally settling on putting it up in a bun. She applied a little lip gloss and mascara. They might be on a lazy beach vacation, but she didn’t want to look like it when she met his sister. If Mia did report back to the family, Claire didn’t want them to think she was a slacker.
As she was finishing up, she heard voices in the other room and knew that Mia must have arrived. The noise finally woke Eva from her nap, so Claire changed her and put her in a cute pink-and-yellow dress to meet her aunt.
By the time they went into the living room, Luca and a pretty young woman were seated on the couch drinking wine. Luca immediately stood up and gestured toward his sister. “Claire, this is my sister Mia. Mia, this is Claire and my daughter, Eva.”
Mia looked like a petite version of Luca, with long, curly brown hair, rich, olive skin and wide, dark eyes. It made Claire wonder if that was what Eva might look like when she grew up. She didn’t have long to ponder, though. Mia launched up from the couch and embraced Claire before she could prepare herself.
“Oh my goodness,” she declared as she pulled away and examined Claire. “She’s beautiful, Luca! Why didn’t you tell me how pretty she was?”
“Because I didn’t want you scheming,” Luca said with a smile.
“I would never,” Mia argued with an equally wicked grin. She winked at Claire, then turned her attention to the baby. “And aren’t you the most precious little girl I’ve ever laid my eyes on!”
The next thing Claire knew, Eva was in Mia’s arms, bouncing happily. “You look just like your cousin Valentina, yes you do,” Mia cooed, wandering away.
Claire felt a little helpless, but she tried not to show it. It was Eva’s family after all, and her daughter seemed pleased with the adoration. It was Claire who needed to adjust to her new reality. For the first time, it really hit her that she wasn’t just bringing a father into Eva’s life, she was bringing in his whole family. Eva would have an identity, a sense of belonging, other than Claire. The thought made her happy for her daughter and anxious for herself all at once. She always seemed to be the outsider, so this was no different.
“Would you like some wine, Claire?” Luca asked.
“Yes.” Definitely. He poured her a glass and they all gathered on the couch. They chatted for a while, then Luca returned to the kitchen to finish off dinner, leaving the ladies alone for a few minutes.
“So, Luca didn’t tell me much about you, just the basics of how you two ended up having a child together. That’s a pretty wild story.”
“That’s one way to put it.”
“So if you don’t mind me asking, what made you decide to go to a fertility clinic? My sister, Carla, was having some issues, too, but they were able to conceive with some medication. Now she’s got three little hellions.”
It seemed like a really personal question so early in the conversation, but she supposed that once everyone found out about Eva, it was a natural thing to ask. “My husband and I were having trouble and nothing was working, so we had to take the next step.”
Mia’s eyes widened, and she glanced at Claire’s bare ring finger. “You’re married?”