Love in Bloom (De La Fuente Family #3)(5)

By: Lexi Buchanan

She had learned to hate the name Caprice—it was the name they’d chosen for her acting debut and it went with the background they wanted her to have. Even Mateo called her Caprice, having no clue as to her true identity. He’d never asked. Since she’d signed on the dotted line of the contract, he’d made it known to her how much he hated what he’d been forced into, which probably included her as well.

His family had been especially difficult for her. She hadn’t been part of a family for so long that in other circumstances she’d have loved to be part of the De La Fuente’s.

It hurt being there but not included in the family. Hurt that his family sneered at her and laughed behind her back. They were civil but she could feel the tension, the animosity, from them whenever she walked into the room.

She’d done what she’d been asked, but it hurt having the people she’d spent time with thinking that she was a horrible person. Mateo hadn’t taken her around them often and she couldn’t blame him. There had only been a few incidents where she’d been horrid, but the rest of the time, she’d acted an idiot. She’d shed so many tears behind closed doors over the hurt that she caused for everyone: Mateo, his family, and even herself.

His family thought that she was a spoilt princess with no common sense, which couldn’t be further from the truth. She’d grown up with a mother who’d worked three jobs just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Everything in Erin’s life had turned into a financial struggle, more so since her mother had died of a heart attack three years before.

Erin wished that things had been different between her and Mateo because he was a handsome man, but he’d only ever known her as Caprice, the woman the PR hotshot had wanted her to portray. A glamorous young woman who’d won the partying-bachelor. And because they’d wanted her to be unpleasant, Mateo hated her, but he had no idea that it wasn’t really her, even though she’d slipped up a few times.

Her friend, Sadie, knew of the contract between her and the PR team and she’d been there every step of the way with helping Erin’s transformation into Caprice, the bitch. She’d practiced on Sadie and had found it so much easier after she’d had a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been able to get drunk before appearing on Mateo’s arm, or when she’d had to stay with his family.

Mateo had no idea that she was usually fun to be around, and he’d only ever seen her as Caprice; full of make up, wearing clothes that she was really uncomfortable in.

Her own clothes of yoga pants and jeans were what she felt the most comfortable in, but of course, Mateo had no idea. He also had no idea that her favorite food was Chinese, just like his. She’d turned her nose up when he’d once offered to share because others had been watching at the time.

There was so much about her that she wished Mateo knew and she longed for him to find out about the clause that had been put into the contract she’d signed.

Sighing, she continued to pack for the trip to join Mateo in Montana, which filled her with a strange mixture of apprehension and excitement. His family wouldn’t be looking forward to her being there. But she’d have a week before the wedding to be herself and hopefully win them over.

But was that what she wanted? After all, her relationship with Mateo was going to end after the wedding, winning them over would only hurt her in the end.

She just knew that there was no way she could carry on as Caprice because she hated that person. She hated the clothes that made her Caprice, hated the way she talked, the way she looked down at everyone, hated that she was a bitch and basically every other thing about her persona.

Regardless to what others thought, she actually respected Mateo. She’d been on his arm while he’d spoken with the media and others who wanted to talk business ventures, and he’d been knowledgeable. A few times she’d nearly given herself away by adding to the conversation, as Erin, which had drawn a frown from Mateo.

Every time she’d slipped, she’d shrug off the silent question in his eyes, as she’d excuse herself to use the restroom. It would take minutes of silent panic, locked in the stall, as she tried to get control of herself—tried to take on the second life of Caprice even though stepping into her skin made her feel dirty.

Sometimes, she could pull it together quickly but often, it would take an excruciating long time as she worried about someone witnessing her panic. Thankfully, by the time she’d get back to Mateo, he wouldn’t mention anything, although she’d caught the odd look from him. It was as though he couldn’t quite figure her out.