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I Don't (Enamorado #1)

By:Ella Fox

This one is for Rochelle. Thank you for being an amazing friend, sounding board and accountability partner. Mateo and Ava owe their literary lives to you. I never would have gotten it done without you.

The screech of the intercom on my desk pulled my attention away from the data I was entering. The timing of the interruption was impeccable, so I wasn't about to complain. Hours spent slumped over a computer were hell on my spine. I was delighted for an excuse to take a break and look away.

I quickly rolled my neck from side to side to alleviate some of the tension while reminding myself that I'd wanted a nine to five job. The shrill tone sounded a third time before I picked up.

"This is a case of perfect timing," I yawned. "I desperately needed to stretch and look away from my monitor."

"Uh, Ava?"

My left brow arched at the uncertain tone of Ben's voice.

"That's my name, don't wear it out," I answered dryly. "I feel like you already knew that since you're the one who called me. What's up?"

"There's …  well, a man is on the phone for you."

I assumed it was my boss, a man who was a perfectionist unlike any I'd ever known. Whenever he called, it was because something was not to his exacting standards. I wondered if I'd inadvertently messed up a column in one of my spreadsheets. I tried so hard, but like every other employee at Keeping Track, I had been on the receiving end of more than one talking-to.

I stifled a groan. "It's Mr. Gretchen isn't it?"

The sound of Ben's elevated breathing filled the silence. "Um, no," he answered, "this is most definitely not Mr. Gretchen."

"Well, since you're acting weird I have to assume it's someone unusual. Is it the President? Bill Gates? Oh, wait. I know. It's Ryan Reynolds. If I've told him once, I've told him a dozen times not to call me at work-"

"Not even close. This man-he says he's your fiancé."

All the blood left my head, and my heart stopped beating for several seconds. When it resumed pumping, I tried assuring myself I was asleep. Yep, that had to be it. I was having a nightmare. With my free hand, I pinched my thigh, only to wince at the twinge of pain. I wasn't dreaming.

I chanted 'no, no, no' in my head as I struggled to take in enough oxygen to be functional. I was nowhere near ready to deal with him. Surely he wouldn't have tracked me down at work. With me gone, he had to be using the opportunity to explore the bachelor life and live it to the fullest. I'd assured myself he'd be busy dealing with his social calendar that thinking of me would be impossible. 

I embraced denial like it was my job. There was some kind of mistake or whoever was on the phone wasn't him. Maybe it was some other man calling for an entirely different Ava. Of course! Yes, that was it. That could happen, right?

"His voice," I whispered. "Does he sound-"

"Spanish?" Ben supplied. "Yeah."

I'd been about to ask if he sounded like a stubborn son-of-a-bitch, but Spanish told me what I needed to know. The phone fell from my hand, clattering loudly as it hit the desk. I fumbled frantically, knocking a container of pens over in the process. My pulse raced as the pens scattered across the desk haphazardly. My fingers seemed to be made of butter, and my dexterity was gone, so picking them up was impossible. I abandoned the pens and grabbed the phone, clumsily hitting myself in the cheek with it as I brought it back to my ear.

"Please tell me this is just a prank," I pleaded.

My voice sounded shaky even to my ears. I was grasping at straws, and I knew it, but right then I was holding out hope some tabloid hack had found me. In my panicked state, it was the preferable option.

"It's not," Ben insisted. "Besides, it's not like I'd know to make this joke seeing as how over the course of the six weeks you've worked here, you never added anyone to the approved caller list. I realize you're an introvert but not putting a fiancé on your list seems a little odd."

My heart thundered as I tried to get my bearings. They were, of course, nowhere to be found. It was always like this when it came to him. My inner compass always pointed me in one direction-straight to Mateo Cruz.

"I'm not," I denied shakily. "Engaged," I clarified.

The six-carat emerald and diamond engagement ring hidden in a pair of jeans on a shelf in my closet said otherwise, but having possession of it wasn't my choice.

No matter how hard I'd tried, the stubborn jerk wouldn't take it back. Even when I'd resorted to outlandish and ridiculous measures, it hadn't made a bit of difference. In a fit of desperation, I'd once hocked it for ten percent of its value. I woke up the following morning to a courier at my door with the ring. Two days later I donated it to a children's charity. That time I got it back within six hours, along with a thank you note from the charity for my generous cash donation.