Page 5 of Pretend Ring Girl

Font Size:  

However, I can’t mistake the fact that the flowers were sent tome. Me, the girl who Elian worked catering with for years and never so much as raised an eyebrow at. Now suddenly he’s sending me roses?

I’m so lost in my confused thoughts that the landline phone suddenly ringing on my desk practically gives me heart palpitations. I hadn’t bothered to read the booklet about setting the ringer and voicemail yesterday, so I snatch the receiver from the cradle in case it’s important.

“Sloane King,” I answer breathlessly.

“Did you get my gift?” A smooth male voice inquires on the other end.

I try to swallow and draw in a breath to answer at the same time, and end up choking on my own spit.

“Sloane, are you okay?” Elian sounds concerned, and I gulp my too-hot coffee to clear my throat.

“Yes, sorry I’m okay,” I wheeze. “Wrong pipe, but I’m fine. I have quite an elaborate display of white roses on my desk. Is that the gift you mean?”

“Yes, that’s the one,” Elian sounds pleased. I can practically hear the dimples.

“It’s very generous, thank you. You really didn’t have to.”

“Of course I didn’thaveto,” he clicks his tongue. “There’s no fun in doing things youhaveto do. I sent them because I wanted to, and I thought you ought to have some flowers for your first day.”

“Technically, it’s my second day,” I remind him, even though I don’t think the distinction matters. I’m just enjoying getting a slight one-up since he’s so far out of my league, the idea that he’d send me flowers as a romantic gesture is laughable.

“My apologies. It was too late yesterday to get them delivered. But that is why I went for the larger order. I hoped it might make up for the tardiness.”

“I’d say that’s a fair compensation,” I agree. “They really are beautiful, and far too generous, but I accept.”

“Well, I was hoping they would soften you up to something else I would like you to accept.”

My heart rate picks up. Until now I’d been enjoying the light, harmless banter of old friends, but something tells me this is going to be more serious. I hope he’s not going to ask me for some kind of discount on their project, I hardly have the pull to affect that kind of change, and despite their outward legitimacy, accusations are always whispered behind closed doors about the kinds of deals the Vargas family makes in their business.

“And what is that?” I finally inquire with more caution.

“A date. Sloane, will you do me the honor of joining me for dinner tonight?”

You could knock me over with a feather. “A date? Are you serious, or is this some kind of joke?”

Elian laughs lightly. “No, I’m deadly serious, Sloane. I’ve always had a thing for you, and now that there are no more impediments in our way, I’d like to take you out for dinner.”

My heart stutters and restarts with the first part of his statement, but then I have to inquire about the second. “What do you mean, impediments?”

Elian sighs. “My parents. I wasn’t allowed to date during college. My parents were on a mission to set me on the straight and narrow… I got into a lot of trouble in high school, and I had to prove to them I deserved to be a part of the family or they threatened to cut me off completely.”

“Oh wow, I had no idea! I’m sorry, that must have been terrible.” I can’t wrap my head around the concept of family just giving you the boot for some youthful indiscretion.

“Well, I definitely earned it. My parents were at the end of their ropes trying to keep me in line. So I had to focus on my studies, and show I understood the meaning of hard work. Hence the catering job.”

“Yes, it makes more sense now,” I agree. “No offense, but we all knew your parents were like, stupid rich, so everyone thought it was weird you took a campus job. Especially since you were there without a single scholarship.”

“Hah, well you should know, in the interest of being honest, my parents did more than pay my way through school. In a couple of years, there will be a new science building named after my mom.”

“No way!” I near shout, then remember where I am and sink lower in my chair, dropping my voice. “That’s crazy. That’s like something people do in the movies.”

“Well, they do it in real life, too. My grades in high school were not good enough, but my parents wrangled a deal that allowed me to attend under the agreement that I got outstanding grades in college and worked a job on campus without privilege. It was humiliating, but definitely a valuable lesson.”

“Sounds like it.” I’m now at a loss for something interesting to say.

“So, is that a yes?”

“Sorry, what?”