Paper Princess Page 13

“You meet the boys yet?” She stops in the middle of the path, her shrewd dark eyes fixed on my face. She’s sizing me up again.

“Yep.” I meet her gaze head-on. “Wasn’t too impressed.”

That gets me a startled laugh. “You’re in the minority then.” Her face sharpens again. “First thing you need to know about Astor—the Royals run this place, Eleanor.”

“Ella,” I correct.

She waves her hand. “Whatever. They make the rules. They enforce them.”

“And you all follow them like good little sheep.”

A slight sneer touches her lips. “If you don’t, then the four years you spend here will be miserable.”

“Well, I don’t give a damn about their rules,” I say with a shrug. “I might live in their house, but I don’t know them, and I don’t want to know them. I’m just here to get my diploma.”

“All right, I guess it’s time for another lesson about Astor.” She shrugs back. “Only reason I’m being so nice to you right now—”

Wait, this is her way of being nice?

“—is because Reed hasn’t issued the Royal decree yet.”

I raise a brow. “Meaning?”

“Meaning all it takes is one word from him and you’ll be nothing here. Insignificant. Invisible. Or worse.”

Now I laugh. “Is this supposed to scare me?”

“No. It’s just the truth. We’ve been waiting for you to show up. We were warned, and we’ve been told to stand down until otherwise ordered.”

“By who? Reed? The King of Astor Park? Gee, I’m trembling in my panties.”

“They haven’t reached a decision about you. They will soon, though. I’ve known you for five minutes and I can already tell you what their decision will be.” She smirks. “Women have a sixth sense. It doesn’t take us long to know what we’re dealing with.”

I smirk back. “No. It doesn’t.”

The stare-off that follows only lasts a few seconds. Long enough for me to convey with my eyes that I don’t give a shit about her, or Reed, or this social hierarchy she clearly abides by. Then Savannah flips her hair again and beams at me.

“Come on, Eleanor, let me show you the football stadium. It’s state-of-the-art, you know.”

7

Savannah’s tour wraps up after a view of the indoor Olympic-size swimming pool. If there’s one thing she approves of, it’s my figure. The barely fed look is popular, she informs me with a brusqueness I’m beginning to believe is just her personality and not a reflection of what she thinks of me.

“You might think I’m a bitch, but I’m just honest. Astor Park is an entirely different kind of school. I’m assuming you went to public?” She gestures toward my thrift store skinny jeans.

“Yeah, but so what? School is school. I get it. There are different cliques. The popular kids, the rich kids—”

She flips her hand up to stop me. “No. This isn’t like anything you’ve ever experienced before. The gym we saw earlier?” I nod at the question. “It was originally supposed to be for the football team, but Jordan Carrington’s family threw a fit and it was re-designated as open access except during specific times. Between five and eight in the morning and two and eight in the afternoon, it’s football only. The rest of the time, normals can use it. Nice, hmmm?”

I’m not sure if she’s joking, because the limited access sounds ridiculous.

“Why did the Carringtons object?” I ask curiously.

“Astor Park is a prep school with a P.” Savannah keeps walking. There’s no quit button on her. “Every family in the state wants their kids to go here, but it’s exclusive. You can’t just have money to get in. Everyone that attends, even the scholarship students, are here because they have something special to offer. It might be that they’re great on the football field or can elevate the science team to win national awards, which means national press. In Jordan’s case, she’s the captain of the dance team, which in my opinion, is one step up from stripping—”

Crap, that better not be why Callum suggested that this morning.

“—but they win, and Astor likes to see its name in the paper next to the W.”

“Then why am I here?” I mutter under my breath.

But Savannah has superhero hearing because as she pushes open the front door, she says, “You’re a Royal of some sort. What kind of Royal remains to be seen. This school will eat you up if you’re weak, so my suggestion is to take advantage of everything the Royal name offers you, even if it means taking it by force.”

A car door slams and a very thin, platinum blonde in skintight jeans and sky-high stilettos totters towards us.

“Hello…um…” The stranger holds a hand to her forehead as if she’s shading her eyes from the sun, which is completely unnecessary given that she has enormous sunglasses covering her face.

My tour guide mutters softly. “That’s Callum Royal’s girlfriend. You don’t have to be nice to her. She’s just an extra.”

And with that last bit of sage advice, Savannah disappears, leaving me with this wisp of a woman.

“You must be Elaine. I’m Brooke, Callum’s friend. I’m here to take you shopping.” She claps her hands together as if this is the most exciting thing ever.

“Ella,” I correct.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I’m so terrible with names.” She beams at me. “We’re going to have so much fun today!”

I hesitate. “Um. We don’t have to go shopping. I’m good just hanging out here at the school until the bus comes.”

“Oh dear,” she titters. “There are no buses. Besides, Callum told me to take you shopping so that’s what we’re going to do.”

She grips my arm with surprising strength and drags me toward the Town Car. And inside is Durand. I’m beginning to love him.

“Hey, Durand.” I wave, before glancing back at Brooke. “How about I sit up front with Durand and let you relax in the back?” I offer.

“No. I want to get to know you.” She pushes me into the backseat and climbs in beside me. “Tell me everything.”

Prev Next