Page 46 of Pretend Ring Girl

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When can you be back?

I’m sorry honey I know it’s unfair, I’ll make it up to you


How soon can you be back? The LT wants to know when I can be there


“Is everything okay?” Vincente watches my face fall while reading the messages.

“My mom says she has to go in to work ASAP, and she needs me home now.”

Vincente checks his watch. “We’re due at the party in half an hour. If everything goes smoothly, you should be home well before midnight.”

I shake my head. “No, that’ll never fly. That’s like four hours from now, and when she says ASAP, she means immediately.”

“I’m sorry, Sloane, but there’s no negotiating here. We have to carry through your assignment, or you risk being in even more danger than you were before.”

My stomach swirls with anxiety. “I don’t know what to do,” I confess. “If I don’t reply for four hours, she’s going to think something happened to me. If I reply, she’s going to demand I come home.”

“You can’t.” Vincente’s voice is shockingly cold compared to a few minutes ago. “You’ve made a commitment to the family.”

“Yeah, but this ismyfamily,” I reply, frustrated. Why can’t he see this is an impossible position for me to be in?

“Not anymore. You made an oath to my father to putourfamily above all else. That includes your parents and siblings. You made an oath to become part of our family, and you can’t walk that back, or beg for forgiveness later. If you don’t follow through on your word, we can’t protect you from therestof our family. And we can’t protectyourfamily, either.”

My blood stops cold in my veins. “Wait, what do you mean by ‘you can’t protect my family’?”

“Surely you don’t think we were ignorant that your parents are police? Surely you don’t think they are untouchable just because they wear a uniform? I know you aren’t laboring under the illusion that we don’t have reach into the police force.” Vincente straightens his suit jacket nonchalantly.

“Are you… are youthreateningmyparents?” I am absolutely in shock at the turn this evening has taken.

Vincente’s dark gaze settles on mine. “No Sloane, I would never do that to you. But I can promise that my cousins have no qualms about taking matters into their own hands. If you fail to do as you’ve agreed, I can’t protect you from what they will do.”

The world seems to tilt on its axis. Now it’s not just me who is in danger, but my parents. My poor, hard-working parents who have always followed the letter of the law in absolute faith, their belief in the power of good over evil, of justice, a recurring lesson my entire life.

Vincente’s eyes soften, his regret clear in his expression. “I’m sorry, my darling, but that is the hard reality of the world. The choice you have to make is: would you rather your parents be angry at you, or would you rather they be dead?”


Idon’t have a choice.

After making all the right choices for my entire life, blindly going after what I wanted has landed me in a position where I have no choice at all.

I ignore my mom’s messages, and wait until a few minutes before I stroll into the party to reply with a short, stilted response.

Sorry, I’m just seeing these. I am at a dinner party in Fort Lauderdale and reception is spotty—there’s no way I can get home before midnight at the earliest. I’m sorry!

And then I turn off my phone.

The warm fuzzy feelings that were developing between me and Vincente have disappeared completely. I know it’s not his fault, and I know he was simply being honest with me, but there’s a painful bruise on my heart from him coldly informing me his family is more important than mine, and then basically threatening their lives if I don’t follow through.

Our ride to the party was silent. For my part I didn’t have a thing to say to him, and Vincente seemed to understand that. We occupied our separate sides of the car, and I watched the skyline disappear as we headed north.

Now, parked out front of the hotel, my nerves about the party have taken precedence over family disputes.

“So,” I clear my throat. “I just go in, wait for Emiliano to flag me down, swap necklaces, then head out?”