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Billionaires in Paris Cynthia Dane 2022/8/3 13:56:20

Oh my God. He read about my mother, didn’t he? Fuck, fuck, fuck. Great. Now I can be caught in a lie too. “Um…” I begin. “Yeah, it was my grandmother’s engagement ring. I was trying it on. It’s in my suitcase right now. Not really my tastes.”

“I figured. From those photos it looked like something that would make you gag.”

At least he knows that much about me. One thing I can say about Ian is that he’s observant when it comes to my preferences. He’s the optimal guy for playing “hint hint” with. Too bad I don’t take full advantage of those games.

“Katie.” He puts both hands on my shoulders. Instantly I’m soothed by his gentle, deep voice. “It’s going to be okay. These papers print that kind of junk all the time. They’ve been speculating about you being pregnant ever since we became public.”

“All right, that was the wrong thing to say, but my point is that they don’t care about the truth. They care about supposed news and getting blog hits and selling papers. Half my publicist’s job is disseminating official information about us.”

“…Really?” The thought of his publicist spending half his days trolling for news of us and “setting the record straight” every day is both romantic and exhausting to think about.

“Yes. Really.” Ian takes my hand. Even though he’s the one who initiated it, I’m the one clinging to him as if the world is crumbling around me. Shit, I know that sounds really dramatic. But the farther I fall down these rabbit holes, the easier it is for me to lose my mind. I start thinking about everything bad that could possibly happen. So the world thinks I’m getting married. Maybe they’ll forget about it by tomorrow. Maybe they’ll run away with it, and the next thing I know Ian’s getting a phone call from my father asking to have “a talk.” What that talk would entail, I have no idea. “It’s going to be okay. My publicist will tell both The Daily Social and other gossip blogs that we’re not engaged. This will blow over before the end of the day.”

I can read the look in his eye. “Not that I think there’s anything to be worried about, that is. I know you’re a wreck though. I’ll take care of it.” I don’t need him to share his judgments with his mouth to read them loud and clear in his eyes.

“How is it you always know the right thing to say?”

“I would take the compliment, but half the time I don’t say what I’m thinking, so…”

My arms wrap around him, demanding a hug that will help me start my day. Hey, this guy helped me get through the night, so why wouldn’t he help me through the day, too?

Going to breakfast was a bad idea.

“Congratulations on the news,” the barista says with a slight accent. “I saw the article on my phone.”

I take my coffee and croissant with a timid smile. “Thanks. It’s not true.”

I don’t know what the girl’s reaction is. I’ve since turned around and scuttled back to the bistro table where Ian is on the phone with his publicist.

“…It’s her grandmother’s engagement ring, yes, but it doesn’t mean anything. We’re not engaged. Uh huh. That sounds great. Check in with me when it’s confirmed. Mm-bye.”

He puts his phone in his pocket. A bright blue light signals he’s got about forty voicemails from his mother. Caroline will have to find out the truth with the rest of the world. At least she’s not flying out here like she did when she found out we accidentally eloped in Vegas… or as far as I know. We better change hotels!

“You know,” he says after a long, ponderous silence. “It might not be a bad idea to announce we’re engaged at some point. It’s what everyone is expecting, anyway. We don’t have to actually get married. We could say we’re planning on a long engagement and leave it at that.”

The logical side of me sees the sense in it, but I haven’t had my shots of espresso yet, so my brain kinda wants to quit everything. “Then they’ll start speculating on where we’re getting married. What I’ll be wearing. Whether or not I’m taking your last name. Bullshit like that.”

“Katie.” Sometimes I hate hearing my name like that. “They’ve been doing that anyway.”

“Exactly. So what is the point? To lie?”

Ian averts his gaze and pops a piece of our shared croissant into his mouth so he doesn’t have to say anything. I feel terrible. After a night like last night, we shouldn’t be like this. I had felt so free and unconfined by society’s pressures. Weight lifted. Lights changed. Everything was exactly as it should have been.