Page 31 of Pretend Ring Girl

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So who do I call?


As I’m staring at my phone, it rings again. Elian, of course.

It seems the fates gave me a sign. I hit accept and answer in a harsh whisper. “Hey—there’s someone at my door and I’m freaked out. After what happened today, I’m worried someone’s going to come try to take me out or something. I know it’s crazy, but do you have anyone you can call or something?”

“Yeah, but could you come let me in first?” Elian’s voice is thick with amusement.

That pulls me up short. “Wait, it’s you? You’re outside?”

“Well, yeah, I knew you were alone and who else do you think knows where you live?”

“I have no idea,” I hiss, indignant. “Those were some serious piles of cash, Elian. I’m sure with that kind of money you can buy almost anything.”

“True. But that’s not something you have to worry about, okay? Vincente said you’re safe with us, and he meant it.”

“Okay,” I sigh, leaning against the wall and sinking to the floor.

“So, are you going to come let me in?”

“Shit, sorry I forgot. Be right there.” I hang up and cross to the front door, still a little leery. Peering out through the blinds on the side window, I can just make out his silver BMW parked up the street. Finally convinced, I step back and unlock the door, swinging it inward.

Elian is on the porch, holding up a paper bag with a few grease stains and an enticingly sweet aroma. I glance from the bag to his face curiously, and see that his gaze is focused on my hand that’s still clutching the Glock.

“Oh, sorry, I’ll put it away. I told you, I was scared. You should have told me you were coming.” I let him in and close the door. “Way to give a girl a heart attack.”

“If you check your phone, I told you half an hour ago I was stopping by with a surprise. I thought you’d seen it. You’ve replied since then.”

“What? No, I didn’t get that.” I open his message and scroll up, only to see that he’s right. He’d sent me several texts, and I didn’t see the first couple.

“Oh, sorry. Again,” my cheeks warm. “I guess I missed it. Let me go put this away.” I shove the phone in my pocket and release the magazine from the gun, then slide back the chamber to kick out the round that was already loaded.

“Damn, mama, that’s hot. I didn’t know you could handle a gun.”

I shrug, pleased that he’s impressed. “My parents are cops, and they’re paranoid about intruders. Once I was old enough, they wanted me to have protection when I was watching my younger siblings. I’m actually an excellent shot; we go practice on the range at least once a quarter. Um, wait here a sec.” I instruct him to stay in the living area while I go return the weapon and ammo to my parents’ bedroom.

Fortunately, my mom cleaned today, and I tidied up while dinner was cooking, so the house isn’t in too bad of shape. My room is a disaster, but there’s no helping that.

“So,” I start when I emerge, “what’s in the bag?”

“Ah,” Elian grins. “Only the best churros in Miami.”

“That’s a pretty tall statement,” I tease. “Have you really tastedallthe churros in Miami to back that up?”

“I’ve sampled quite a few,” his grin widens to full dimples. “But you can be the judge for yourself.” He nudges the bag across the counter and licks his lips. “Ladies first.”

Even though we’re just talking about churros, the atmosphere is suddenly charged with sexual tension. With all the excitement, I didn’t even have time to fret that I just got out of the shower, and am now entertaining this delicious man while I have wet hair, wearing no makeup, and have on holey sweats. I accept the challenge, and reach into the bag to withdraw a long and skinny, still-warm fried pastry coated in cinnamon and sugar.

It looks perfect; golden brown, firm but not hard, and crusted with sugar crystals. I bite into it and there’s a perfect crunch-to-softness ratio. The sugar and cinnamon melt in my mouth, and I quickly chew and swallow the bite so I can take another one.

“Mmm, alright, this is a damn good churro,” I agree, and hold up the stick. “Want a bite?”

Elian’s playful gaze drops to my fingers, and he leans forward to bite the dessert.

But just as his mouth closes over the end, his eyes flash up to meet mine and heat floods through my body. His lips close sensually around the churro, and I feel suddenly light-headed.

I don’t know if it’s this long game of cat and mouse we’ve been playing for four years, the flood of emotions from the earlier events of the day, or just my hormones finally catching up to me. Either way, I am suddenly hot and incredibly bothered by this scenario, and it’s taking a herculean effort of willpower to stop myself from jumping him in my parents’ kitchen.

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