Authors: Sierra Rose
Tags: #Billionaire Romance
Copyright © 2015 by Sierra Rose
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
I managed to tear myself away from Luke and tried on a gazillion different rings, completely mesmerized by the sparkle. Meanwhile, a server brought us glasses of champagne on a silver tray. I truly felt like royalty, just like Kate had said I would, and I’d never been catered to like that before. “I could get used to this,” I whispered to Luke when he walked over to join me.
“How is the wedding planning going?” the salesman asked.
“She’s been doing all the planning,” Luke responded.
“And you don’t wish to help?”
“It’s her reception, not mine. I’m just filling in, playing the part of a happy groom. Her father wants me to.”
“You’re only going to the reception because her dad wants you there?” he asked, wrinkling his brow in confusion.
“Well, it’s his last dying wish,” I said. “And Luke is a very honorable man.”
“Is there a baby in the future?”
“No. I’m not pregnant,” I said.
He shot me a baffled look, then sighed as if he’d figured it out. “An arranged marriage, huh? Those are so uncommon these days, especially here.”
I chuckled. “I guess you could kind of call it that.”
?” Luke asked.
“Well, you and Dad planned this all out. When the last groom got canned, smacked by a bus, you gladly stepped in to take his place.”
“Better me than one of the two strangers you were about to take to the reception.”
“Hey, my dad planned that game show! I had no control over who I’m going to pretend to marry.”
“You’re so lucky I won.”
“Yeah, well, that remains to be seen.”
The salesman looked perplexed. “So it’s arranged, and now your beautiful bride-to-be is planning a beautiful ceremony. Truly, it touches one’s heart, even if the circumstances are somewhat…untraditional.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I don’t really think this one’s into place cards, appetizers, and boutonnieres.”
“All you have to do is ask,
,” he said, teasing me to the point of frustration.
“Well, I figured you’d be much too busy running your Fortune 500 company.”
His gaze narrowed. “Well, darling, just say the word, and I’ll be at your beck and call.”
“I can’t ask you when you’re not around, can I?”
“You know my phone number, but you seldom ever call me. Whose fault is that?”
“I’m sorry. I guess we do have a lot to…catch up on,” I snidely remarked.
“You don’t seem to know each other well. Are you sure you are ready for a lifetime commitment?” the nosy salesman chimed in.
“On the contrary, I know Luke
“Oh? And how did you lovebirds meet?” the salesperson asked.
“I lived two houses away from him in Indian Point, Missouri,” I said. “We became great friends when I was five, and we were inseparable for a long time. He used to walk me to the bus stop in first grade.”
“I also taught her how to ride her bike with no hands.”
“Our families became good friends and attended the same church. They even went on vacations together.”
“We had this spark, this connection,” Luke said, gazing into my eyes. “I couldn’t help but ask her out on her sixteenth birthday.”
“And then I guess… Well, we became high school sweethearts,” I said. As soon as the words left my lips, the memories flooded back to me. Those truly were the best years of my life, and I had never forgotten those hot summer nights, just the two of us, gazing up at the stars and talking about the dreams and the future we naïvely planned to share. Back then, I’d never been happier, and life seemed so easy. Little did I know then how wrong I was.
Luke slipped on a beautiful engagement ring, and I knew it was the perfect one. I didn’t intend to keep it or anything, but I knew it had to cost a small fortune, and I was sure the talk show would not be willing to donate it to us, publicity or not. Someone from the staff mentioned a budget, but didn’t tell me how much I had to spend.
“What do you think?” Luke asked.
“Then I want you to have it.”
“We have to stay in budget,” I said, then looked up at the jeweler. “How much can I spend? I guess I should’ve asked that at the beginning.”
“You can have any ring you wish, miss,” he said.
“Any of them? No way. Most of these rings cost more than my car.” I looked up at Luke. “Is this your doing? I know it has to be.”
He smirked, letting me know he was in on it. “Just get the ring of your dreams,” he said.
“But why? I’m not even really getting married. It’s just a stage prop, for the reception.”
He shot me that gleaming smile. “Quit overthinking everything. Is it the perfect ring or not?”
I twisted the ring ever so slowly around my finger, admiring the sparkle from various angles. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, so bright and brilliant. If I was really getting married and all of this was all real, this is the one I’d want.”
“I’m so confused,” the jeweler said, wrinkling up his brow again. “So you aren’t really getting married.”
He arched a brow. “So…you don’t want the ring?” he asked, his face melting into disappointment as he thought of his huge commission slipping away.
“I still need a ring for the reception.” I glanced down at my finger. “This really is the perfect one.”
“Ah. A reception but no real wedding. So you’re visiting the Justice of the Peace,” the salesman said. “I’ve got no problem with that. Too many people go to such a fuss. It might be smarter for young people to save money for their new home and—”
“Um, no, we won’t be legally married in any way,” I cut in. “I know this doesn’t make much sense, but Luke is just a friend who just happens to be sharing a wedding reception with me.”
“But you said you were high school sweethearts,” he said, even more befuddled than before. “Yeah, and it was a whirlwind romance…until the day it ended,” I said regretfully.
“If I could go back in time, I would,” Luke said.
“We can’t, Luke. No one can.”
“I don’t get it,” the man said, shaking his head and tapping his fingers nervously on the glass cabinet.
“It’s a unique situation and hard to explain,” Luke said. “Anyway, if this is the wedding set she wants, we’ll take it.”
“No, Luke. It’s far too expensive,” I said.
“Just let me do this one thing for you,” he said. “I promised you a ring years ago, and I wanna make good on that promise, now that I’m in a position where I can. If you want to sell it or pawn it afterward, fine, but please allow me to keep my word on at least this one thing. It’d mean the world to me, and I promise there are no strings attached.”
“You’re the sweetest,” I said.
“So you accept?”
I smiled. “Yes.”
Luke met the man’s gaze. “My bride needs bling. Give her a flawless, two-carat solitaire.”
“What?” I asked, stunned.
“You deserve the best, Julia. It’s a gift and nothing more.”
“Gee, I guess if I’m gonna dream, I better dream big.”
He shot me his movie star smile, his teeth gleaming white and sparkling like the diamonds that surrounded us.
I nodded, too stunned to say anything else.
The salesman smiled. “Yes, this is a jaw-hit-the-floor, blingtastic kind of ring.”
I nodded again and recovered my voice. “It sure is. It literally takes my breath away.”
Still utterly confused and looking at us like we were some sort of oddballs, the man wrapped up our bridal set in a pretty blue box with a white ribbon, and we were out the door.
“Gosh, I can’t stop staring at it,” I said, wiggling my newly adorned finger in the back of the taxi.
“It’s the ring you were meant to have.”
“I just wish the whole thing was as real as that gemstone. I’d never really ask for anything this fancy. I wish we were planning our wedding, that we would have…” I stopped and looked over at him, feeling the heat in my cheeks as I blushed. “Sorry, Luke. I can’t believe I’m telling you all of this. I guess wearing an engagement ring is making me all emotional or something.”
“It’s okay. I think about it too.”
“A ring is a symbol of love. It has nothing to do with the size of the diamond.”
“I know that, but I made a promise to you back then, and I wanted to keep it. The biggest, rarest diamond in the world would still be less than you deserve.”
“We spent so much time talking about wedding plans back then,” I said. “You promised me a two-carat ring, but I didn’t ever expect you to follow through with that. I just wanted to be your wife, and I would have settled for a bubblegum machine ring. I just wanted to spend the rest of my life trying to make you happy. I loved you so much, and I dreamt of our wonderful future together. I guess we almost had it all…almost.”