Page 58 of Pretend Ring Girl

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“Is that so?” He leers, leaning closer, which forces my head back against the wall. “So they know your father isDetectiveKing, and your mother isSergeantKing, both with the Miami police?”

“They do,” I snort. “Was there a point to all of this, or do you just really need a gold star for something?”

“Yes, the point is to tell you that you work for me now.”

“Hardly. My oath is to Vincente Senior, not you. I did my job, proved my loyalty, and now I’m part of the family.”

“Well, maybe he has decided you’re not as loyal as you’re supposed to be?” A terrifying grin spreads across his cheeks.

My heart stops for a split second. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Well, perhaps he’s discovered your loyalty is split between your mommy and daddy on the police force, and the family you swore an oath to. Perhaps he’s now questioning exactly how much you can be trusted.”

“That’s crap.” I struggle to keep my tone firm. “They already know who my parents are, and I haven’t breathed a word to them about anything.”

“Maybe, maybe not. But it doesn’t matter what youhavedone, it matters what hebelievesyou’ve done. So if you want to keep breathing, you’re going to do what I say. And if I’m satisfied, then perhaps I’ll clear up any confusion and make sure you’re on good terms with Vincente Senior again.”

“And what exactly is it you want me to do?” I grind out between clenched teeth.

“I don’t think my cousins have the stomach to take over their father’s business,” he hisses. “So I want you to provide me with something that will get them out of the way, so my uncle will have no choice but to bring Emiliano and me in instead.”

I suck in a startled breath. “You want me toactuallybetray them? That’ll never happen.”

“Perhaps you need more motivation. How about, if you don’t do it, your parents will end up face down in Dinner Key just like your buddy José. Now what do you say?”

Just then, the sliding door to the patio scraped open. “Sloane, are you finished?” Vincente’s voice calls out, and relief pours through me.

Manuel gives me one last threatening look, then releases me, heading down the hallway away from the living room.

Doing my best to look normal, I plaster on a fake smile. “Hey, yeah, I’m all done.”

Vincente’s brows lower and his expression turns stony. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just think I ought to head home, and I’m nervous about facing my mom.” I feel terrible lying to him, but I know it’s a reasonable explanation for why I look so freaked out.

“You don’t have to if you’re not ready, Sloane. You can stay with me for as long as you like. We can go back and get your stuff, or just buy you new stuff if you never want to set foot in that place again.”

I can’t express the horror I feel at the idea of showing up at my parent’s house with Vincente in tow. Everything I’ve done is to keep these two facets of my lives completely separate. “It’s really okay. I think we need to talk it out. Plus, the bracelet you gave me is there. I couldn’t just leave it. Worse comes to worst, and the talk doesn’t go well, I’ll pack a bag, okay?”

“Okay, if you’re sure.” He looks dubious, but wraps his arms around me in a tight hug. “Just let me know how it goes, okay? I’ll be worried until I hear from you.”

“I will,” I promise, eager to escape so I can think over the latest layer of insane that’s been added to my life.

I collect my purse and keys, and call an Uber to drive me back to Vincente’s building. He tries to insist on driving me, but I tell him to enjoy his family time.

The drive home is painfully long thanks to traffic, but my anxiety about what waits for me makes it pass shockingly fast.

I pull into the drive, and both of my parent’s cars are there.

Drawing in a deep breath, I shoot a message to Vincente to let him know I’m home, then head inside to face the music.


My mom is anxious. I can see that already. Since I didn’t have any makeup when I left yesterday, I had nothing to cover the mark on my neck from where she tugged off the necklace. The dark purple ring draws her gaze, and she blinks rapidly, as if staving off tears.

My dad hops up from the couch and approaches to give me a reassuring hug. “Welcome home, sweetie,” he whispers. “It’s all going to be okay, I promise. Your siblings are at your grandparent’s house so we can chat.”

I nod into his chest, but don’t say a word.

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