Page 3 of Pretend Ring Girl

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His brothers snicker, and he rolls his eyes. “Look, Mama and Pápa wanted me to have real life work experience. It was the easiest job I could find.”

“Yeah, because you were a lazy, entitled brat, cabròn,” Sandro chuckles. “But I remember Sloane. We had world history together. She shared her notes with me.” He flashes me a devastating, pearly-white grin, and the likelihood of me turning into a puddle becomes nearly a hundred percent.

I can’t help the snort that rises from my chest. “Yeah, because you couldn’t be bothered to even bring a pencil to class, let alone something to write on.”

His brothers burst out laughing, but Sandro just holds my gaze with his charming smile. “That’s true. But why would I bother when your notes were so much better than anything I could take?”

“Okay, enough buttering me up. I’m glad you passed the class at any rate.” My cheeks are positively flaming now, and I turn my gaze to the eldest and safest Vargas brother, Vincente. We had no interactions at all, and despite knowing everything about him, I’m certain I never crossed his radar. “Vincente, right? It’s nice to meet you.”

“Oh, we’ve met, but I’m not surprised you don’t remember. I, however, couldn’t forget.”

My heart drops with humiliation. “Oh dear, we have? I’m so sorry I’ve forgotten.” I’d be willing to swear on a stack of bibles I’ve never officially met him in my life, but it seems better to agree rather than try to argue with this man who is clearly a customer.

There was that one night…

His dark eyes flash with something that looks an awful lot like hunger. “Yes, well, it was a long time ago, and this is probably not the place to discuss it. Another time.”

I grin and nod awkwardly. “Yep, sounds good. Well, I think Rebecca has it handled, so I’m going to head out. It was nice to see you all again.” I cast them a parting smile and escape through the glass doors, only to bump directly into AJ Kellerman himself.

“Sloane! Glad I caught you. Why don’t you grab a drafting tablet and sit in on this meeting? It’ll be good training for you.”

My stomach flip-flops with nerves. “Uh, sure thing, Mr. Kellerman.”

“Please, call me AJ. No need to be so formal here.”

“Okay… AJ, I’ll go grab my tablet and be right back.”

“Excellent.” The older man nods with a kindly smile and heads into the conference room.

I dart back to my seat and slouch to hide myself behind the monitors while I touch up my makeup and wait for the blush to fade from my cheeks.

Just. Fucking. Great.

Not only are all three of my college crushes here together, I’ve got to go sit in a room with them and act like I know what I’m doing my first day on the job, without devolving into acting like a teenage girl seeing her favorite boy band (spoiler alert, the Vargas brothers would absolutely be my favorite boy band, hands down).

Not to mention the fact that Vincente Vargas not only knows who I am, but apparently we met… in such a way that he remembers me and I don’t recall at all?

Just thinking about it is enough to make me break out in a sweat. God, I only hope it was nothing embarrassing. My mind immediately jumps to all the moments I’ve catalogued as cringe from my four years of college, scanning to see if I remember him being there.

“Hey Sloane, are you ready? They’re waiting for you.” Rebecca’s voice carries across the room and I jump.

“Yep, coming!” I snatch the tablet and electronic pencil from my desk and head into the conference room with my head held high.



The meeting actually goes better than I feared. AJ talks with the Vargas boys and everyone pretty much leaves me to doodle on my tablet.

Apparently, the Vargas family has a history with Kellerman and Associates and they’re here to discuss a new project, some warehouses close to the docks. Vincente Vargas Sr. built a fortune from his import business, on the strength of relationships he built with contacts in South America. If you read the glossy local magazines, he’s the Miami version of the American Dream: a poor immigrant who arrived in this country with nothing and became a billionaire from his own hard work.

Of course, his sons were raised like princes in a fabulous mansion in North Miami Beach. They didn’t need scholarships to attend U of M; the family paid for undergrads in business school for all three of them. They played soccer on the school team, joined the same fraternity, and were rumored to be in some secret society no one knew, and yet everyone seemed to have heard about. Elian and Sandro are Irish twins, less than a year apart, so they were both in my graduating class. Vincente is two years older.

“So, is Sloane going to be working on this project?” I bristle when I hear Elian mention my name, but I look up from my doodling all the same.

“I’m sure she’ll be assisting from time to time,” AJ answers. “With our first year associates, we have them support the leads on a variety of tasks to give them a sense of how different projects are worked. It helps them develop a more well-rounded perspective of the industry, rather than sticking them in a rut designing bridge pilings or what-have-you.”

“Well, we look forward to working with Kellerman as usual,” Vincente stands, straightening and buttoning his navy suit jacket. “Our father is always pleased with your work, and he’s looking forward to getting this project started to expand our business. My brothers are first year associates also, so they’ll be attending meetings with me as well.”

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