Every time I put on gloves to touch a patient, I can’t help but think how tragic it is to have to cover up this ring. I can’t help but constantly look at it.

It’s been a week since AJ gave it to me. I haven’t seen him since, and he hasn’t tried to contact me except for a handful of work-related texts. I’m grateful for the distance. It’s given me some time to get myself together.

I’m no longer mad about the photos. I’d blamed him, which was selfish and stupid of me. It’s not his fault. It’s all mine. I’m the one who lost control. I knew he was a giant celebrity and being seen with him would get chatty mouths to start talking, but I wasn’t thinking. I wanted him that night, despite all the flashing red warning lights in my head. He had some kind of hypnotic pull on me and I’d given in. Scratch that. It was as much me as it was him.

As I stare at the ring, gleaming in the overhead lights of my office, an office that once made me feel so proud, I feel the walls closing in around me.

There’s a sudden loud rap at the open door. I hurry to hide my hand behind my back. My heart simultaneously leaps and drops when I see AJ standing there, a slight smile on his lips. My mind wants to resent him, but my body remembers everything that’s happened between us. There’s no way I can resent him after that.

He looks me up and down. I feel myself blush until I see the confusion in his expression.

“Did you forget about the photoshoot?” he asks.

“No. My clothes are in the closet. I’m just finishing up.”

I’d agreed to the photoshoot earlier in the week when AJ’s agent called my office and brought it up, saying it would be best for both of us if the engagement seemed more authentic. I’m starting to regret it.

“Let me just change and grab my things,” I tell him.

“I’ll meet you in the car.”

He leaves and I go into the bathroom to change into yellow dress I bought for the shoot. I pull my hair into a sleek ponytail, dust on a light layer of powder, mascara and lip stain, then put on the heels that are way too tall and kill my feet after a full day of work.

With a deep breath and slow exhale, I go out to meet AJ.

Only, once I make it outside, I realize that AJ never made it to his car. He’s standing at the front entrance of the hospital. A crowd of fans gather around him. All six-foot-six-inches of him towers over their heads, so he easily spots me when I’m walking out of the hospital.

“There’s my girl,” he says, his smile gleaming. All eyes turn to me and I have a slight panic moment from all the attention.

AJ comes up to me and takes my hand in his. He doesn’t let go as he talks to his fans and answers their many questions. This is why everyone loves him so much. He’s so approachable and doesn’t carry a single bit of arrogance like other sports stars of his caliber. Why does he have to be so damn charming? I even find myself being pulled into it.

He only lets go of my hand to take photos with his fans. Most of them want me in the picture, too, after all the publicity our engagement has gotten.

After he’s made sure everyone has their selfies and autographs, he tells them thank you for their support and we leave.

“No wonder your fans love you,” I tell him. “You’re good to them.”

“If you think I’m good to them, you should see how good I am to the people I love.”

He squeezes my hand and looks pointedly at me. A lump swells in my throat. Is he trying to say he loves me? I quickly look away, afraid of what he’s trying to tell me. When I do, a sleek black limousine pulls up in front of us. The driver gets out and opens the door.

I look up at AJ surprised. All of this for photos? He ushers me in.

I once rode in the back of a limousine that my parents got for me and all of my friends in middle school for my first big dance. The limo was from the seventies with red vinyl seats that were cracking and questionable white stains on the headrest. That car was nothing like this one. I could live in this one. The leather seats are nicer than the couch in my apartment. There’s a mini fridge, champagne on ice, thin little biscuits with caviar crème fraîche, and chocolate covered strawberries.

“Wow,” is all I can think to say.

He slides in next to me and tries to take my hand once more. This time I don’t let him. Holding my hand is part of the public act. He doesn’t get to do that when we’re alone. I don’t trust myself around him when we’re alone.


Tags: Penny Wylder Romance
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