Paper Princess Page 25

I shrug. Math and science come easy for me. I know I got my talent for dance from my mother, but since she could barely calculate a tip percentage in her head when we went out to eat, I always wondered if I got my aptitude for numbers from my father. Steve, the Navy SEAL slash pilot slash multi-millionaire.

“Anyway, Mr. Royal contacted the headmaster this weekend and requested we pair you up with Easton this semester.” Neville lowers his voice. “Easton could learn some discipline, and it makes sense for you two to be lab partners. You’ll be able to study together at home.”

Oh joy. I stifle a sigh and head for Easton’s table, where I drop my backpack under the desk and slip into the chair next to his. He doesn’t look happy to see me.

“Fucking hell,” he mutters.

“Hey, don’t look at me,” I mutter back. “This was your father’s idea.”

He stares straight ahead, a muscle ticking in his jaw. “Of course it was.”

Unlike my morning classes, chemistry seems to drag on forever, but that’s probably because Easton sits there scowling at me for ninety-nine percent of the time. For the other one percent of it, I get a cocky grin from him as he leans back in his chair and orders me to mix the solution we need to grow the crystals.

The second the bell rings, I’m out of my chair and eager to escape my sulking “brother.”

I race out of the classroom, ready to get to my next class, but then I remember I need to make a quick stop at my locker to grab my textbook. All the courses I’m taking are advanced and come with thousand-page texts. I wasn’t able to fit them all in my backpack.

Fortunately, my locker is nearby and so is the World History classroom.

Unfortunately, Jordan Carrington and her friends round the corner before I can reach my locker.

The four of them stop and smirk when they notice me. None of them say hello. Whatever. I don’t say hello either, and I try not to feel self-conscious as I walk past them. They might be bitches, but they’re beautiful bitches. Every guy in the hallway is checking them out, including Easton, who lazily strides out of chem class and walks over to the girls.

The group stops by the locker bank, and Jordan whispers something in Easton’s ear, her manicured nails resting on his upper arm.

He shrugs, causing his navy-blue blazer to tighten across his broad shoulders. He’s undeniably the hottest guy in a five-mile radius, though the two guys who join him aren’t hard to look at either.

I ignore them all as I reach my locker and spin the combination lock. Two more classes and then school will be over and the stares will stop. I’ll go back to the mansion and do my homework, then go to sleep. Keep myself busy and block out the bullshit. That’s my new motto and I’m sticking to it.

I’m relieved when the lock clicks on the first try. I wasn’t sure I got the combination, but the locker door opens easily and—

A mountain of garbage falls out.

I’m so startled I squeak out loud, then curse myself for it. Laughter rings out behind me, and I close my eyes, willing the heat in my cheeks to subside.

I don’t want them to see me blushing.

I don’t want them to know that this stinking, heaping mess of trash at my feet has affected me in any way.

I kick a stray banana peel and breathe through my mouth so the stench of rotting food doesn’t make my eyes water. The floor is littered with even more disgusting items than the spoiled produce—used napkins, tissues, a bloody tampon…

I will not cry.

The laughter doesn’t die down. I ignore it. I just scoop up the World History textbook from the bottom shelf of my luxury-sized locker. Then I flick away the wad of crumbled newspapers that’s sticking to the latch and slam the door shut.

When I turn around, all eyes are on me. I only seek out one pair—Jordan’s, almond-brown and gleaming evilly. She gives me a regal little wave.

I square my shoulders and tuck my book under my arm. A tall guy with brown curls snickers as I start to walk. Oh my God. There’s a sanitary pad stuck to my shoe. I swallow my embarrassment, kick the pad away, and keep walking.

Easton wears a bored expression as I approach.

I pause in front of Jordan, one eyebrow arched, my own smirk forming on my lips. “Is that all you’ve got, Carrington? I’m trash? Tsk-tsk. I’m disappointed in your lack of creativity.”

Her eyes flash, but I’m already sauntering past her like I have no care in the world.

Another score for the away team. Kind of. Because I’m the only one who knows just how close I am to bursting into tears.

12

I make it through the rest of the day without crying, but part of me wants to go all Carrie on these kids until they look back at trash in the locker as the easiest day of their lives.

Valerie texts me during class. Are U OK? Heard abt locker. Jordan is an ass.

I’m fine, I respond. It was stupid and like u said. No creativity. Trash? Did she steal that from a Disney show?

Ha! Don’t say that tho. She’ll B forced 2 think of something worse

2 late.

I’ll throw flowers on ur grave!

Gee thanks. I tuck the phone away when the teacher glances in my direction. Once the fancy chimes ring to let us know class is over, I shove everything into my pack and hoof it outside, hoping that Durand is waiting and I can escape to the princess bedroom. The pink and white is growing on me.

The parking lot is filled with noise, people, and expensive cars, but no Durand.

“Harper.” Valerie appears over my right shoulder. “Your ride isn’t here?”

“No, I don’t see him.”

She clicks her tongue sympathetically. “I’d offer you a ride but I don’t think you want to get in the same car as Jordan.”

“You’d be right about that.”

“You should go, though. Once school is out, it can get rough.”

“Out here in broad daylight?” That’s alarming.

Valerie’s forehead wrinkles with concern. “Jordan has moments of cunning. Don’t underestimate her.”

I tighten my grip on the backpack and give myself an internal slap for carrying around so much cash. There has to be a place in the Royal pile of bricks where I can hide this.

“Why does she get away with it? Savannah Montgomery told me that everyone here is special. So why is Jordan the leader if everyone has something unique to offer?”

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