2:15 p.m.

“Can you all take me to Buccellati? I have to pick up something real quick.” Michael asked the two new security guards that replaced Bill and Javon.


In truth, he didn’t trust these new guys. For over two and a half years, Bill and Javon were his right-hand men. They’d been there through thick and thin. Saw Michael and his children at their highest and lowest. But once talk of the tour became a reality, they were pushed out by his new management team with these new guys: Straw and Andy.


Michael didn’t really know if he liked them much. Straw, maybe since Bill knew him. But Andy? Mmm. He was an afterthought.


“Sure thing, Boss.” Straw replied from the front as he made a right onto Wilshire Blvd.


Buccellati.


That’s where Michael first laid eyes on Athena. He’d never forget it.


Before the tour begins in two weeks, Michael wanted Athena to know just how much she truly meant to him and his children. Athena must go on tour with him. She was always his biggest supporter, but now, he can’t imagine going to London without her by his side.


Just three months ago, they celebrated two years of bliss together. Two years and she still made his heart skip a beat.


Now he wanted her to travel the globe with him forever.


“We’re here, sir,” Andy called back just before stepping out of the car to let Michael out.


Michael put on a pair of sunglasses and slid out the door. They parked directly in front of the store where the whole world could see that they had arrived.


Bill and Javon would have never done this. If a celebrity didn’t want to be seen, security could make it so that they got their wish. But it was clear that Straw and Andy didn’t care about that. Much like the other times they had him out in the open for everyone to see, he knew this was being done to drum up excitement for the tour he was still unsure about.


One look at the infamous black penny loafers on Michael’s size nine in a half foot caused a slight murmur amongst shoppers, but it wasn’t too extra. One could always tell the tourists from the locals. Locals didn’t care, but tourists went crazy.


Once Michael entered Buccellati’s, Straw asked the sales associate to lock up for the duration of their stay.


Unsure of why, they innocently inquired the reasoning.


“We have a high-profile client that wants to shop in private.” Michael overheard him say as he peered at the rings inside the glass case.


Knowing protocol when a high-profile client entered the store, the sales associate simply went to lock the door without any further questions.


Much like other times, Michael entered a store, a small crowd gathered around the windows, watching and wondering if it was really him. However, instead of doing his usual “smile and wave,” Michael continued to browse through the selection of rings.


The “ring of time” caught his eye for a moment, but after a while, he knew he’d get tired of looking at it.


The white gold “cocktail ring” was nice, but the aquamarine jewel wouldn’t look good.


His eyes finally set on the “Budelli Ring.” The gold bezel embraced the 19.20k Kunzite stone square in the middle, with the yellow gold rouches finishing off the ring not too overtly amongst the 108 round diamonds. Just imagining it on Athena’s ring finger shining brightly against her rich cocoa skin, he had to have it.


“I’ll take this one.” Michael pointed at the ring beneath the glass.


“This one is…” the sales associate slid open the back door and pulled the ring out. “Seventy-six thousand dollars.”


“Okay…? Do you have a size six?”


“Let me see…” they pulled a drawer out to check. “I do.”


“Box it up for me. I’ll take it.”


This is it. Athena is the one. He knew for sure this time. Michael loved her. The children loved her. Jayce loved him and his children. They would be a happily blended family. She and Jayce would move into Wonderland with him, and finally, he’d be living the life he wanted: with love.

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