Beat of the Heart


Page 74






AJ grinned. "Even though the views would have been better from the bedroom up here, Abuela didn't like the idea of you on these stairs too much." His hand reached out to graze my belly.

My heart swelled with her concern. "Really?"

"Yeah."

"That's sweet."

He leaned in for a quick kiss before taking me by the hand and leading me over to the table. His parents, along with the rest of his family, were already seated. "Right here, Mia," Antonio suggested patting the seat next to him.

Instead of giving his brother shit, AJ eased me down next to Antonio and then squeezed in beside me. Abby and Jake found places at the head of the table. My eyes widened at all the food while my stomach growled with hunger pains.

After piling on some tamales and beans and rice, I glanced down at the plate that Antonio passed me. "What's this?" I asked AJ.

He grimaced. "Cow tongue."

My eyes widened. "T-Tongue?"

"It's kinda a delicacy. They know how much I love it."

Even though I was starving, just the mention of tongue, along with the sight and smell of it, caused my stomach to turn. Fearing I would throw up, I clamped my hand over my mouth. I almost knocked my chair over as I stumbled out of it before racing into the bedroom off the roof. Glancing wildly around, I searched for the bathroom. Finally, I saw it and raced inside, slamming the door behind me. When I got to the toilet, I heaved just twice before my stomach started to settle. I had just finished gargling some mouthwash I'd dug out from under the sink when a gentle knock came at the door. "Mia?" AJ questioned.

After I spit, I swiped my mouth and then reached over to unlock the door. He ducked his head in, his brow creased with worry. "You okay?"

"My stomach is fine, but I'm mortified that I just did that in front of your family. God, what a nice impression."

"Aw, amorcito mio, they don't give a shit about that. You're pregnant-shit's gonna bother you more than normal."

I grinned up at him. "I gotta say that pregnant or not, that tongue woulda freaked the hell outta me."

AJ laughed. "So you're telling me you Sicilians don't eat weird shit?"

"Yeah, I'm sure they do back in the old country, but not in Atlanta."

When my stomach rumbled between us, AJ grinned. "Come on, let's get out of here."

"Would they be really offended if I went to lie down instead of being at the tongue table?"

AJ shook his head. "No, I mean, let's really get out of here. I'm getting my Baby Mama some American food."

"But I don't want-"

AJ silenced me by bringing his lips to mine. When he pulled away, he cupped my cheeks in his hands. "Quit worrying about pissing off my family. They love you just for having my baby."

I crossed my arms over my chest. "Your illegitimate baby."

"Hey, we can always legitimize her while we're down here."

"If that's a proposal, you need to step up your game."

AJ laughed. "Come on, let's go."

When we stepped back onto the roof, everyone's gaze honed in on me. I tried not to blush and cower behind AJ. He held up a hand. "She's fine. I'm going to take her for some fresh air."

His mom nodded and then translated for his relatives . "Sorry," I said.

She smiled. "Don't worry about it, honey. It happens to all of us. Just feel better."

"Thank you."

I let AJ lead me over to the stairs. Once we were back on the main floor, he grabbed a set of keys off the hook. I followed him out the front door as he popped the lock on one of the cars on the street. After we buckled up, he floored the engine, and we pealed out of the spot.

"Um, are you insane?" I asked as we flew around the narrow streets.

"Sorry, amorcito mio, but this is how we drive down here."

"And I thought Atlanta was bad," I muttered as I cringed.

At the sight of the Golden Arches a few minutes down the road, I gasped in pleasure. "You guys have McDonalds?"

AJ chuckled. "Contrary to popular opinion, this isn't some third world country. We even have a Wal-Mart."

"Everywhere has a Wally World."

"Whatever," AJ replied as he eased up to the drive thru.

I longingly eyed the burgers and fries on the menu. Still worried about gaining too much weight and being undesirable to AJ, I knew I shouldn't get anything really fattening. With regret, I said, "I'll have the chicken salad.

AJ rolled his eyes and ordered us both double cheeseburger meals and fries. He had them add an apple pie as well. "What was that about?" I demanded as he began to pull forward.

"That's about you and your neurotic weight shit." He cut his eyes over to me. "I want you to eat what you want to eat."

I snorted. "Fine. When I get as big as Shamu-"

"I'll love every inch of you," AJ countered, with a determined look in his dark eyes.

My heart melted at his words, even though it was hard to believe him. "Whatever," I mumbled, but I did lean over and kiss him. After we got the food, he pulled the car into a parking space and left it running. After he handed me my burger, I hurriedly unwrapped it and shoved in a bite. "Augh, this is terrible for me, but so fucking good," I murmured through my mouthful.

AJ laughed. "I'm just glad to see you're eating for you and Bella."

"Hey, as long as you don't give me tongue, I'll be fine."

"We'll get you some 'Mia friendly food' later at the local market."

After wiping my mouth with my napkin, I planted a kiss on AJ's cheek. "My hero."

"You're welcome."

When we were finished, AJ tossed the trash bag in the back seat and cranked up the car. "Come on, let me show you my city."

"But what about your family? Won't they be mad at me for keeping you gone so long?"

He shook his head. "Once I tell them you wanted nothing more than to learn everything you could about your second home, Guadalajara, you'll be putty in their hands."

I laughed. "If you say so."

"We have two weeks with my family, Mia. Stop worrying."

"Okay," I said with a smile.

Once we got to the historic downtown part, we abandoned the car in a parking deck, and AJ began his tour on foot. At the sight of an empty horse drawn carriage on the street corner, a thought popped into my mind. After everything we had been through, we needed a little romance, and what could be more romantic than a carriage ride?







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