Chapter 19

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I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath, while squeezing Sophia's hand a little tighter.

"Mommy, are you okay?" Sophia was looking up at me with furrowed eyebrows.

"Yes, baby, now let's go meet your grandparents."

I muster up all the courage I had in my body and walk towards the living room. I practically run into Lina as I turn the corner.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Cattleya, I was just on my way to tell you that Niklaus' parents are here."

"Thank you, Lina" I give her a smile as she walks past us.

As we step into the living room, I see Victoria and Matteo sitting nervously one of the oversized Chesterfield sofas. Their eyes flicker to me as they hear us enter. I feel as Sophia gently tugs my hand, wanting me to take her closer to her grandparents.

She makes me feel so brave.

I walk with her right up to them, their eyes never leaving her. Their faces were hard to read. Shock being the most prominent emotion, but other emotions were mixed in their expressions.

"Grandma? Grandpa?" Her head went from Victoria to Matteo as she spoke. "I'm Sophia."

Huge smiles appeared on their faces. A tear running down Victoria's face as she knelt down in front of Sophia, pulling her into a tight hug. Matteo just admired her from the sofa. His expression finally readable, happiness. Sophia pulled away from Victoria and climbed on the couch to throw herself around Matteo's neck. We all chuckled.

"Cattleya, it's good to see you again." Victoria was now standing and pulling me into a hug. I stiffened reflexively before I let out a breath of relief as I wrapped my arms around her frame. For a second, I felt like I was hugging my own mother.

"You have no idea how nerve racking it has been waiting for this moment." I choked out when I felt I had enough confidence to use my voice.

"Were you expecting us to come in throwing daggers or something?" I couldn't help laughing at Matteo's reference to the last time we saw each other.

"I knew you'd never forgive me for that."

I went to sit on the identical sofa directly in front of them and watched as they pinned over Sophia.

"She has your eyes, Victoria." I smiled at her.

"The Romano genes are strong with this one. She is the spitting image of Niklaus." Matteo barked out a laugh.

I watched as they interrogated Sophia with what felt like hundreds questions, trying to get to know her as much as possible. She gracefully answered them with a smile on her face as her big green eyes shined with admiration.

She had always wanted this. A father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. She had been just as lonely as I was. We were content with what we had, but our hearts longed for more.

I now laugh at the thought that I was so nervous about Victoria and Matteo rejecting her. I watch as Victoria holds Sophia on her lap with a brilliant smile on her face as Matteo makes a funny face just to hear her contagious laugh.

It was starting to get late and Sophia tried her hardest to fight off the sleep threatening to sweep her away. Matteo took her in his arms, she leaned back into him and nuzzled into his chest. Her eyes soon closed and she was fast asleep.

"I should take her to bed." I started to stand when Matteo spoke, causing me to sit back down.

"No, it's okay. We have much to discuss still, Cattleya." Not quite ready to let her go yet. I sat uncomfortably on the sofa, I had dreaded the moment the attention would be focused on me instead of Sophia. "Why did you run?" His voice even and monotone, it was hard to hear any emotion in it.

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