Paper Princess Page 20

Shock smacks into me. “What?”

“East and I have somewhere else to be. We’re going that way—” He points to the left. “The house is that way—” He points straight ahead. “Time for you to start walking.”

“But—”

“It’s only two miles, you’ll be fine.” He seems to be enjoying himself.

Easton is already out of the car and opening the back door for me. “Get a move on, sis. We don’t want to be late.”

I’m a tad dazed as he yanks me out of the car and pushes me toward the side of the road. Are they seriously ditching me here? It’s one o’clock in the morning, and it’s dark.

Neither of them care. Easton hops in the passenger seat, slams the door and gives me a little wave. The SUV zooms forward and Reed makes a speedy left turn, leaving me in his dust. I can hear their laughter from the open window.

I don’t cry. I just start walking.

10

I eat breakfast in the kitchen alone the next morning. My legs ache and my feet are sore from walking two miles in new shoes that hadn’t been broken in yet. I dreamed that Reed Royal was chasing me in a pitch-black tunnel, his deep voice taunting me in the darkness, his breath hot on my neck. I woke up before he was able to catch me, but I like to think that when he did, I strangled him to death.

I’m not looking forward to school on Monday, and that ten thousand dollars in my backpack is calling out to me. Leave. Run. Start over. But there’s so much more money on the line…

Maybe the Royals are right. Maybe I am a whore. I might not be sleeping with anyone for money, but I am taking it from Callum for favors unspecified in the future. Brooke said he saved her, but I’m guessing from the way they act around each other that she’s definitely sleeping with him.

Footsteps thud in the hall, and Easton walks into the kitchen. He’s bare-chested and wearing gray sweatpants that ride low on his hips. I try not to stare at the hard ridges of his abs. But I do take a long look at the cut on his right temple. It must have bled at some point, but now it’s just a red line, an inch long and marring his perfect skin.

Without acknowledging me, he grabs some orange juice from the fridge and drinks straight from the carton.

Note to self: don’t drink from that carton unless you want oral herpes.

I focus on eating my yogurt and pretend he’s not here. I have no idea where he and Reed went last night or when they got home, and I’m not sure I want to know.

I can feel him watching me. When I turn my head, I find him leaning against the counter. His blue-eyed gaze tracks the movement of my spoon as I raise it to my lips, then lowers to the hem of my short sleep shirt.

“See something you like?” I crack as I take another bite.

“Not really.”

I roll my eyes and gesture to his head with my spoon. “So what happened? Bump your head on the dashboard when you were blowing your brother last night?”

He laughs, then glances at the doorway behind me. “Hear that, Reed? Our new sister thinks I blew you last night.”

Reed enters the kitchen, also shirtless and in sweatpants. He doesn’t even look my way. “See if she’ll give you some pointers. She looks like she knows her way around dick.”

I flip up my middle finger but he has his back turned to me. Easton sees it, though, and a slow grin stretches his mouth.

“Nice. I like a chick with a little fight in her,” he drawls. He pushes off the counter and comes closer, his thumbs tucked in his waistband. “What do you say, Ella?” He voices my name as if it’s a curse word. “Want to show us what you’ve got?”

My heart stops. I don’t like the feral look in his eyes. He stands in front of me. Then his smile widens and he slides one hand inside his pants to cup his junk.

“You’re our sister now, right? So come on.” He rubs himself. “Help a brother out.”

I can’t breathe. I’m…scared.

I shoot a glance at Reed, but he’s leaning against the counter now, arms crossed. He looks amused.

Easton’s blue eyes go smoky. “What’s the matter, sis? Cat got your tongue?”

It’s impossible to answer. My eyes dart toward the doorway that leads upstairs. The other door is behind me, but I don’t want to turn my back to Easton if I need to run for help.

He catches the fear in my eyes and starts to laugh. Just like that, his hand slides out of his pants. “Aw, look at that, Reed. She’s scared of us. Thinks we’re gonna hurt her.”

Reed laughs, too. From his perch on the counter, he smirks at me. “Not our MO. We have no problem getting laid.”

Sexual assault isn’t about getting laid, it’s about power, I want to say, but I can see now that I was afraid for nothing. They don’t need to hurt me. They already have power. This…whatever this was…it was intimidation. A game. They wanted to make me uncomfortable, and they succeeded.

As our gazes lock in a three-way stare-down, Callum walks into the room. He frowns when he notices Easton standing so close to me and his other son lurking at the counter. “Is everything all right?”

The Royal brothers watch me, waiting for me to tattle on them.

I don’t. “Everything’s awesome.” I take another bite of yogurt but my appetite is gone. “Your sons and I are just getting to know each other. Did you know they have a stellar sense of humor?”

Easton’s lips twitch. When his dad turns away, Easton’s palm grazes his crotch again.

“Did you enjoy the party last night?” Callum asks.

Reed cocks an eyebrow at me. Waiting again, this time to see if I’ll tell their father about the way they deserted me on the side of the road. I keep that to myself, too.

“It was great,” I lie. “Super fun.”

Callum joins me at the table, trying to provide a buffer between me and the guys, but his attention only draws sneers from Reed and Easton, who make no effort to hide their feelings.

“What would you like to do this weekend?”

“I’m fine. You don’t have to entertain me,” I answer.

He swivels in his chair. With an upward tip of his chin, he asks, “What about you two?”

The subtext is what are we going to do with Ella. It makes me cringe and a tightness that I’m beginning to call the Royal Pain appears between my shoulder blades.

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