Paper Princess Page 26

“Connections,” Valerie replies bluntly. “The Carringtons aren’t part of the ten-figure club like the Royals, but they know everyone. They’ve done business with celebs, royalty. Jordan’s aunt on her dad’s side is married to some Italian count. We actually have to refer to her as Lady Perino if she shows up for Christmas.”

“That’s unreal.”

“So Jordan is, by extension—” She breaks off. “Hold on. Here she comes.”

I brace myself as Jordan strolls toward us. Like all alphas, she has a pack trailing behind her. They look like a toothpaste commercial—acres of white shining teeth and long straight hair swishing behind them.

“If it makes you feel any better, Jordan’s hair has a lot of wave to it and she has to spend an hour flat-ironing it every morning,” Valerie mutters under her breath.

Doesn’t Valerie have any decent shit on Jordan? Because she spends too much time on her hair really isn’t a great putdown.

“I’m feeling really superior now,” I say dryly.

Valerie gives me a quirky smile and slides her hand around my arm in moral support.

Jordan halts about two feet from me and makes a couple of obvious sniffs with her nose. “You smell,” she informs me. “And it’s not from the trash in your locker. It’s just you.”

“Thanks for the heads up. I guess I’ll start showering twice a day instead of just once,” I say sweetly, but inside I’m worried, because what if I really do smell? That would be about just as bad as toting around a used maxi pad on my shoe.

She sighs and flips her hair over one shoulder. “It’s the type of smell no amount of showering will ever wash away. You see, you’re a casual.”

I look at Valerie with a question. She rolls her eyes in response.

“Okay then,” I reply cheerfully. “Good to know.” Jordan wants me to look stupid, so the best I can do is not get drawn into her game. But my non-reaction doesn’t turn her away. She just keeps shooting her mouth, probably because she likes hearing herself talk.

“Casuals will always reek of desperation.”

Well, she’s got me there. That’s pretty much the perfume of a strip club.

I force myself to shrug. “I don’t know what casual means in Bitch, but I’m assuming it’s bad. What I don’t get is why you think I give a rat’s ass about your opinion of me. The world is really big, Jordan. You throwing trash in my locker or calling me names isn’t going to matter in two years. Hell, it hardly matters today.”

Her mouth drops open and Valerie turns her face into my arm to smother a laugh.

I don’t know what Jordan’s comeback would have been, because there’s a commotion behind me. People move, and I know who’s standing behind me before Jordan’s perfect red lips form his name.

“Reed,” she breathes. “I didn’t see you there.”

There’s an uncertainty in her voice that surprises me. I wonder what the exact text of Reed’s anti-Ella decree is, and I make a mental note to ask Valerie.

“You done?” he asks, and I’m not sure if he’s talking to me, or Jordan. By the way her eyes flick from me to some place about a foot above my head, she’s not sure either.

“I was wondering if you wanted to go over our AP English assignment,” she says finally.

“Finished it,” he replies tersely.

Jordan rubs her lips together. That’s a slap at her and we all know it. I almost feel sorry for her…almost.

“Hey, Reed,” a different, softer voice chimes in. It comes from a delicate looking girl whose golden blonde hair is caught up in braids that wrap around her head like a crown. Her cornflower blue eyes are covered in ridiculously long lashes, which wave like feathers as she waits for Reed’s response.

“Abby,” he says, his entire face softening. “Nice to see you.”

Half the chicks in this school claim to have slept with him, but who knows if that’s true. Only one I know about for sure is Jordan’s friend Abby.

So this is the girl who caught Reed, at least once. I can see why. She’s gorgeous. So is Jordan, but Abby is soft in a way that Jordan—and me—are not. This is what Reed likes? Soft girls who talk to their feet? No wonder he isn’t interested in—wait, what am I even thinking? I don’t care if Reed is interested in me. He’s welcome to all the pale, starry-eyed girls like Abby he wants.

“I’ve missed you,” she says, and the longing in her voice makes us all shift uncomfortably.

“It’s been a busy summer,” Reed replies, shoving both hands in his pockets. He’s not meeting Abby’s eyes, and his tone has an air of finality to it.

She hears it, too, and her eyes glisten. It might be over for Reed, but it’s painfully obvious that Abby hasn’t moved on. I kind of feel sorry for her.

When Reed lays his heavy hand on my shoulder, I almost jump out of my skin. And I don’t miss the spiteful glares from the toothpaste girls or the wounded dove expression on Abby’s face. If Reed Royal touches anyone, it’s not supposed to be me.

“You ready, Ella?” he mutters.

“Ahhh, I guess?”

This whole confrontation makes my shoulders itch, so I don’t argue when Reed steers me toward Easton’s truck. When we reach it, I jerk out of Reed’s grip. “Where’s Easton?”

“He’s driving the twins.”

“Did you just use me to get away from your ex?” I ask as he opens the door and pushes me inside.

“She’s not my ex.” He slams the door.

As Reed rounds the front of the truck, I see Valerie waving to me with a huge-ass grin on her face. Behind her, Jordan is glowering. Abby looks like a kicked puppy.

“Buckle up,” Reed orders as he starts the truck.

I do what he says because it’s safe, not because he told me to.

“Where’s Durand?” I wave back to Valerie, who gives me the thumbs up. I hope Jordan didn’t see that or Valerie may find herself moving from her proper bedroom to some closet in the basement. “And why are you driving me?”

“I wanted to talk to you.” He pauses for a beat. “Are you trying to embarrass the family?”

Shocked, I turn in my seat to look at him and try not to notice how sexy his strong forearms look as he grips the steering wheel in frustration.

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