Evita’s pulse raced. It was a man on the youngish side with shaggy golden-brown hair. He wore khaki shorts and a T-shirt and had his hands in his pockets. Sauntering along barefoot like he hadn’t a care in the world and striding toward the house like he owned it.
But he didn’t own it.
The owners were in Kenya, and the Machados had been told that this cottage was theirs.
“Okay enough.” Chachi yanked his cell from his pocket. “I’m dialing 9-1-1.”
“Wait,” Kendra said. “Maybe there’s been some mistake?”
Evita’s mom huffed. “What kind of mistake?”
Eunice nodded. “An accidental double booking? I mean…” She glanced around and nodded at the gin bottle then at the approaching guy. “They don’t seem like the sort to squat. Do they? Just look at him.”
“He does look kind of preppy,” Robby said.
“Shh!” Chachi warned. “He’s coming closer.” And he was. He’d just passed the firepit and was almost to the covered porch.
Her sisters-in-law were making sense. The civilized thing to do would be to confront these people first and discuss the situation. Maybe there really had been some sort of mix-up? Once the Machados explained they had the week, surely the other group would understand. Might even apologize for getting the dates wrong on their calendars. Then they’d pack up and go, and problem solved! Her parents had been looking forward to this week so much, and so had she. “Let me handle this.”
“Evita, no,” her mom said. But she was halfway to the French doors.
“Excuse me!” she said when the guy was almost to her.
He stared at her long and hard. Then blinked.
“Evita?” he asked. Wait. How did he--
Her heart pounded like a kettle drum. His voice was deeper. Richer. Now a smooth baritone. Tiny shivers raced down her spine. It couldn’t really be him, could it? Part of her wanted it to be, but another part was terrified. For his sake, mostly. Her parents would freak first, and then toss him out on his ear. They’d never liked the idea of Evita being around Ryan, even when they weren’t together romantically. No fault of hers. She would have seized that opportunity in a heartbeat. “Ryan?” she asked uncertainly. “Ryan Hatfield?”
“Yeah” he said with an air of confusion. “That’s me.” Her head spun and her world went topsy turvy. He was so much better looking than she remembered. All grown up but with those same amazing brown eyes and that heart-melting grin. Her stomach flipped, memories flooding her. They used to sneak off campus for coffee in high school. They’d quickly go through the drive-through then arrive back at their school parking lot, chuckling about their sneaky deed.
“Come on,” she said, nudging him. “You know you want your java.”
He laughed, unaware she was flirting. Darn it. He never picked up on that. “My java, right,” he said, drawing out the word. “Like you don’t need your fix?”
“Guilty as charged,” she responded, grinning. “But at least our addiction’s legal.”
“All right.” Ryan raked a hand through his hair, and it flopped back down in sexy waves. “I’ll drive.” He sat behind the wheel and glanced her way. “I want you to know you’re corrupting me.”
“Am I?” she asked, pleased. She buckled her seat belt. “Good.” She only wished she could corrupt him more. By covering him with kisses…
She stared down at her clothes, remembering she was in Nantucket and covered in baby vomit. Nooo. She probably reeked too. Her hand shot to the side of her head, hiding the barrette and the biggest blotch of nasty.
Ryan’s face registered concern. “Are you all right? You look a little—”
“Oh, yeah. Yeah. Ha-ha. My niece she…” she winced, “…had a little accident.”
“I see that,” he said, like he couldn’t. Or maybe he could? His sister was several years younger, so maybe he remembered some baby stuff. Like about how unpredictable they could be. Also terribly embarrassing. And it was hard to imagine being much more embarrassed than she felt now. Running into her old high school crush all these years later. Looking—and smelling—like this.
“I’m kind of surprised to see you,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
Her face flushed hot. “I, uh. I’m here with my family.”
He gave her a dazed look. “Funny. So am I.”
The Hatfields arrived on cue, traipsing up the wooden steps from the beach. Mr. Hatfield stopped walking when he saw Evita. He wore a white button-down shirt cuffed at the sleeves. His business slacks were rolled up at the ankles. Those had to be his shoes and socks in the house. His tie, too, more than likely.
Ryan’s teenage sister yelped like she’d seen an alien. “Ahh! Who’s that?”
Evita startled and dropped the hand shielding her hair.
Maddy shrieked again. “Is that our maid?” she asked in horror.
“No.” Ryan’s mom covered her mouth, looking like she might faint. “It’s a Machado.”
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