Page 27 of Pretend Ring Girl

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Surely that last one wasn’t legal, although I didn’t get the impression that laws were something that holds a family like the Vargas’ back from something they want. Whether it’s a marriage in the eyes of the state or their own beliefs, it would be of no different weight.

It remained to be seen if Vincente Senior, and particularly Alicia, would allow that to happen on a more permanent basis. It’s entirely possible they are just entertaining their sons’ youthful explorations, and at some point will demand a more traditional arrangement.

But I’m still intrigued by the idea. Being handed three perfect men, all different and devastatingly handsome in their own way, with the promise that I’ll never have to choose among them?

What girl with a giant shoe closet can’t see the benefits of this scenario?

The timer on my cell phone dings, and groaning, I roll over to my stomach. After a couple hours of playing in the water, I decided to lie on the yacht and work on my tan while the boys continued with the water sports. Emiliano and Manuel even shed their polo shirts and kicked around on the jet skis for a while, which surprised me. I was starting to imagine them like secret service agents, or royal guards: always working, always serious. But they loosened up and had some fun, like the rest of us.

The sun is hot, I’m thirsty, and I’ve long since finished the tasty mojito Kristi, our steward, brought me. I know if I wait long enough she’ll reappear, but I’ve also got to use the restroom and should probably check to see if I need to reapply sunblock, so I decide to make my way inside and seek another cocktail while I’m at it.

As I descend the first set of stairs, I see a small white boat docked at the back of the yacht.Jesus, how many more motorized vehicles does this beast have tucked away inside? It’s like a James Bond villain ship.

My bag is in one of the guest quarters, but the master suite is on the way and I really need the bathroom now—plus I’m already familiar with that one—so I decide to duck in to use the toilet.

And this turns out to be the pivotal moment that defines the rest of my life.

Picture it: Me, in a sweaty bikini, grasping an empty cocktail glass and just looking for a quick spot to pee. I open the door and see Emiliano and Manuel with plastic-wrapped white bricks in their hands, and two other men in the room that I don’t recognize. The bed is covered with more bricks, laid out in rows of neat stacks next to large empty duffel bags.

And next to those are the two black duffels Emiliano and Manuel brought on board, unzipped to reveal thick stacks of crispy hundred-dollar bills.

My heart leaps to my throat as I take in the scene, and the wild eyes of Emiliano, Manuel, and the two strangers.

Oh shit, this is bad. This is ‘girl disappears off the coast of the Bahamas and is never heard from again,’ bad. What the fuck do I do now?

“Excuse me,” I mutter, and yank the door closed, adrenaline coursing through my blood. I have seconds; what do I do? What’s safe?

The answer comes to me like a lightning bolt, and I race for the back of the craft where my guys are lounging on a giant neon green floating mat.

I must look terrified. Vincente is laughing and when his gaze lands on me, his smile drops like a stone and his body tenses immediately.

Scrambling across the mat, he makes it to the boat landing and reaches for me. I dive into his arms, my heart galloping erratically like a wild bird in a cage.

“What’s wrong?” His warm, comforting arm squeezes me into his body, and I’m grateful. Even under the midday Bahamian sun, I’ve suddenly gone ice cold.

“I think I just saw something I wasn’t supposed to see,” I admit, teeth chattering.

In a flash, Sandro and Elian are next to us, and someone drapes a towel over me.

“Come, sit.” Vincente tugs me onto the back deck and pulls me onto a cushy seat. “Elian, glasses.” He snaps his fingers, and within seconds, Elian’s mirrored shades are covering my eyes.

“We’ll talk later, but right now, what you do is very important. Just tell me: you didn’t scream or act like you’d be a liability, did you?”

I don’t really understand what he means. “I just said ‘excuse me’ and closed the door.”

“Perfect, my darling,” he rubs his hand up and down my arm. “Now, I’m sure Emiliano and Manuel are smoothing things over with their friends. When they leave, you just need to sit still and act cool. Just sit here with me like you don’t have a care in the world until they leave. Do you understand?”


“Good girl. Okay, first thing first, let’s get them off our boat. And once they’re gone, we’ll talk.”

“Okay,” I agree. I’m kicking ass at this whole ‘acting cool’ thing. I should win an Oscar.

Sure enough, the four men stalk out of the hallway from the master suite a few moments later, the two strangers holding the duffels I now know contain hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

Behind the mirrored glasses my eyes are huge with terror, but I force myself to sit, leaned back against Vincente’s warm chest while his fingertips trace tender circles on my arm. I feel him give the visitors a slight nod, and from the corner of my eye, I see Elian and Sandro do the same. They’ve taken up seated positions that essentially block me from direct access, and they lounge, appearing totally at ease.

The strangers don’t speak, they just nod in acknowledgment as well and head directly for their waiting boat. Emiliano and Manuel see them onto their craft, then step back and continue the secret service act, watching stoically as the other men start up their boat and drive off.

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