Page 43 of Pretend Ring Girl

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“Well, not exactly new,” I admit. “I went to college with him. We worked catering together. But I bumped into him downtown last week, so he’s been inviting me to go to the beach and on his family’s boat. It’s no big deal.” No sense laying it all out.

“And does this friend have a name?” God, she will not let this go.

“It’s Elian, mom, don’t you remember? I told you about him for, like, all four years.” I attempt to sound super dismissive as I dig in the fridge for a drink.

“That name does sound familiar,” she admits, and the eyebrow slowly lowers. “So you just bumped into him downtown? How?”

“To be honest, he came into the office because his parents’ company is working with Kellerman. They want him to work in the family business, so he came along to the meeting. He got that flashy car as a graduation present.”

“I see.” She, better than most, knows how many wealthy parents in Miami spoil their kids with fancy cars. Fortunately, she wouldn’t in a million years believe that the Vargas’ made their son work a catering job. She literally calls them ‘little princes’ when she and my dad talk about their shady business dealings. “Did you have fun?”

Oh thank god, inquisition is over. “Yes, they have a nice boat. It was a great day to be out on the water.”

“I’m glad you could get out. I’m gonna hop in the shower. Can you finish this lasagna and get it into the oven for dinner?”

“Sure thing, Mom.”

“Thanks baby.”

After Mom leaves, the evening is quiet. I make sure both of the kids bathe and get into bed, then take my time cleaning up, tidying my room, and laying out clothes for tomorrow. It’s my second Monday on the job, and somehow it feels like a lifetime ago that I was last in that office, but it was only two days.

Sighing, I check my phone to discover text messages from all three Vargas brothers. Sandro, of course, has sent me a few memes, a TikTok link, and a gif of a sunburnt monkey.

Elian sent me a few texts describing his desire to repeat our activities of the previous night that sets my cheeks ablaze.

And Vincente sent me a message just stating that he’s looking forward to our date on Friday.

I reply that I’m not sure what I should wear, shoot Elian a dirty photo of myself fresh from the shower and tell him to eat his heart out, and send Sandro a gif of a monkey with its pants on fire.

The first reply I receive is from Vincente:

Don’t worry, darling. I have you covered.


Ikeep my head down and avoid drawing unnecessary attention all week. AJ sends me several follow-ups about the Vargas warehouse, and I start being farmed small, unimportant tasks from the other architects.

Since this is more of what I was expecting just starting out, I shouldn’t be surprised.

However, my first week hit with such a bang its sort of a let-down to be assigned what amounts to architectural busy work other people don’t want to do. But I know it’s the bread and butter of how this career works, and I’m luckier than most to be working on what I have.

At least I still have my gorgeous vase of roses, which are opening nicely and not even close to wilting going into their second week. They provide excellent cover, so I never have to look at Frank, and he’s apparently realized harassing me to fetch him coffee won’t work. I have now had the pleasure of watching him retrieve his own refill several times, and each one feels like an absolute win.

I was worried about the pile of clothes I left under my desk, but I was able to dump them in a tote bag on Monday and run them back out to my car, so no one was the wiser that Rebecca and I had our own little version of Cinderella meets Fairy Godmother here Friday night. And when she invites me to join her for lunch, I tap into my dwindling savings to splurge. It’s so much fun to have a girl at work to gossip with. My friends from school would never understand—or approve—the situation that I’ve found myself in. But Rebecca is one hundred percent on my side. I tell her all about the other girls at the party and about the guys—leaving out the drugs, oaths, and my upcoming task, naturally—and she sighs dreamily.

“It really is like you’re Cinderella, isn’t it? Except there’sthreeprinces, and it’s a Maserati instead of a carriage.”

“More like a BMW and a Porsche, but yeah, it kind of is.”

“Fine, I guess I’m your Fairy God-sister or whatever. Butnotmother.” Her expression brokers no argument.

I laugh. “Of course, not mother. You’re too young for that.”

“I know, right?”

Rebecca agrees, once again, to help me get ready. I tell her that Vincente is picking me up Friday for a party, and he once again promised me a dress, so I’m expecting another late afternoon delivery.

Sure enough, the last associate has snuck off to the parking garage when Rebecca struts into the office with another gift-wrapped box. “It’s here! Do you have any idea what’s inside?” She plops the box on my desk, on top of the local building code books I’ve had my nose stuck in all day.

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