Chapter 17- Key Lime and Kisses

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Pete cleared his throat before speaking. "You know, I actually had a few ideas about where we could go this year too."

Layla could see the January bobbing up and down as she waved to her coworkers, alerting them to pay attention. Layla clamped her sweaty hands together in her lap. "Oh yeah? Where were you thinking?"

Pete took his own spoon and cleared the rest of the pie out of the way in one swift motion.

There, at the bottom of the glass, where only graham cracker crumbs dusted the basin, was her ring. The stone was as familiar as her own name, and she itched to feel it on her hand again.

"I was thinking..." he began, but he stopped to pop the bite into his mouth.

The suspense was building, and Layla couldn't help but bite the inside of her cheek as she waited. "Yes?"

He flashed her a devilish smile. "Paris."

"I've always wanted to go to Paris!" Layla picked up the martini glass by its dainty stem. She cheated the ring ever so subtly toward the camera and feigned surprise. "Pete, what is this?"

He lowered himself onto one knee beside her, taking the game to the next level. He fished out the sapphire ring and blew off the pie crumbs. "Layla Monroe, there are a million ways to be happy in this world, but for me...a life with you is the only one. Will you marry me?"

Layla's jaw dropped as she took in the sight of him holding the delicate silver band. For a fleeting moment, she was swept away by the sweet simplicity of his proposal.

So much so, she almost forgot it was just a ruse.

His words were perfect and poignant, any girl's dream. She looked at Pete's earnest expression and faked a smile in return. Even though none of it was real, she desperately wished someone would say that to her and actually mean it. She wanted to be wholly and wildly desired and he was doing an incredible job of making her feel that way.

Reality nipped at her heels, reminding her where she was.

Accept and thank him. That was the plan.

She nodded her head vigorously. "Yes. Yes! Of course I'll marry you." She stuck her hand out, and he slid the ring onto her finger. He kept her hand in his as he stood and applause broke out among the waitstaff and fellow diners.

"Thanks for—"

Pete didn't wait for the end of her sentence. Instead, he took her face in his hands and brought his mouth to hers, very much veering off-script. His thumb stroked the apple of her cheek softly, like a whisper, and he tasted like key lime. His movements were tentative, as though the slide of his lips across hers was a question. She opened her mouth a little more, letting him in. His right hand responded in earnest, sliding to the back of her neck and spurring her on. He made it all too easy to linger. He pulled away first and moved his mouth an inch away from her ear.

"You are a very convincing fiancée."

She felt herself pull in air before she registered that she was still breathing.

Words.

Sentences.

Put words into a sentence.

The first statement that came to her fuzzy brain, which she would never speak aloud, was that it was the best fake kiss she'd ever had. If she was a convincing fiancée, he deserved an Oscar for his performance.

The second statement was lame and borderline gibberish, but she said it anyway.

"Same. But, you, though."

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