Page 15 of Pretend Ring Girl

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“Apparently it does in your life, honey. Now, we’ve got half an hour to get you ready. Come on!” Rebecca runs to the front to dig a makeup bag out of her desk, then motions me to the ladies’ bathroom.

If I hadn’t realized Rebecca was amazing on day one, this would definitely have sealed the deal. By ten after five I am dressed in the gown—which, surprise, fits perfectly—with a fresh face of evening makeup and an elegant updo, courtesy of Rebecca’s emergency supplies.

We return to my desk and I shove the gift box full of my work clothes under it.

Nerves ripple like waves through my body, clenching and unclenching my stomach. “Is this crazy? I feel crazy.”

Rebecca laughs. “Girl, you may feel crazy, but you look like a princess. So go dance with the prince and have an amazing time!”

“But AJ warned me not to get involved with the Vargas brothers. I mean, he basically said he’d fire me if it becomes a problem.” It’s a relief to say the words out loud. The stress has been eating a hole in my gut.

“Hmph,” Rebecca shrugs, grasping both my hands. “All you’re doing is going to a party that probably a ton of people will be attending. If you’re worried, ask the guys to stop talking to you at work. I have seen nothing inappropriate happen here, and as long as it stays that way, you won’t have a problem. You got me?”

“I got you.” I squeeze her hands, relief trickling through my system. “Seriously, thank you so much. If I’m the princess, I think that makes you my fairy godmother.”

“Ha, girl, there’s no way I’manyone’smother, fairy or otherwise. Let’s just go with a very stylish big sister.”

That draws a laugh from my lips, and I relax even more. “Either way, thank you.”

“You’re welcome, girl.” Her eyes flit to the front door and her grin widens. “Princess, I think your chariot has arrived.”

Waiting at the entrance is a sleek white limousine, and standing before it is Vincente in a tuxedo.

A freakingtuxedo.

My heart is absolutely jack hammering at my ribs. This has all happened so fast I’m in an utter state of disbelief, half-certain it’s the result of some fever dream that’s caused by too many late nights cramming, and I’m going to wake up in my bed at home with a chem test tomorrow.

While I’m staring gape-mouthed, Vincente glances at his watch, then goes back to impassively gazing through the glass doors into reception. Because of the glazing to keep out the heat, he can’t see through the second set of glass that separates us from the reception, and I’m grateful that I have this moment to take it all in.

Vincente is, in many ways, like an older—and yes, I’ll admit—sexierversion of Elian. While Sandro is bigger all around, Vincente is nearly Elian’s size. Perhaps a little brawnier, but pretty close.

But there’s no mistaking that he is all man. Vincente’s jaw is sharp and muscular, while Elian still has a little youthful roundness to his face. Vincente also lacks the boyish dimples, and his eyes are dark, with flat, thick brows that are clearly sculpted. The planes of his face are sharp, defined, with a deliciously full mouth. Where Elian’s posture is always relaxed, Vincente stands ramrod straight, his shoulders wide, chest up. He is everything I fantasized about in college, safe to dream about because he was so damn untouchable.

And here he is, waiting outside forme, with a limo. In a tux.

“Girl, are you going to make him wait all night? What are you doing?” Rebecca’s voice brings me back to earth. “Get a move on! Prince Charming awaits!”

“Okay, okay, I’m going!” I snatch the delicate beaded bag from my desk, checking to make sure I’ve transferred the important items to it from my work purse, then close the clasp and turn to Rebecca once more. “How do I look?”

“Like a princess,” she repeats. “Now go!”

With all the confidence I can muster, I walk across the office and through the first set of doors. Vincente’s eyes are drawn to the motion, and his flat expression changes to a sinfully delicious smile that lights up his entire countenance. Rebecca follows, ready to lock up after me, and Vincente steps forward to pull the outer glass door open.

With one last gulp of nerves, I allow a smile to spread across my cheeks. I glance back at Rebecca, who gives me a thumbs up for good luck, and then accept Vincente’s proffered arm as I pass through the doors into the Miami heat.

“I knew it would look good on you, but I didn’t know just how good,” he purrs with a smile. “You are absolutely stunning, Sloane.”

A nervous giggle escapes my mouth. “What, this old thing? But seriously, thank you. It’s too generous, you really shouldn’t have.”

“Of course I should. What good is money just sitting around? It’s made to be spent, and at this moment I can’t imagine a better use than giving a beautiful woman an elegant dress so she can attend a party.” He pulls the door of the limo open and hands me inside, then closes the door gently behind me. Once we’re both settled in, the driver merges into traffic.

And I’m suddenly aware that I’ve never been alone in such an enclosed space with Vincente Vargas before.

I didn’t have any fragrance of my own, so Rebecca spritzed me with something sweet and warm, lightly musky, while I was getting ready. The limo is filled with Vincente’s cologne, also sweet and musky, and the two seem to blend nicely.

My eyes flit around the vehicle, fingers worrying a bead on my dress. I’m so nervous I don’t know what to do with myself. Vincente feels so foreign, and yet familiar at the same time. I chalk it up to how similar he and Elian are.

“Champagne?” Vincente’s voice is a warm rumble that seems to resonate from his chest in the enclosed space.

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