Paper Princess Page 28

Stop hiding from him. Don’t give him the satisfaction.

If I skip dinner, Reed will know he won, and I can’t let him win. I won’t let him break me.

Still, even after I decide to face the jerk, I continue to stall. I take a long shower and wash my hair, then change into a pair of tiny black boxers and a loose red tank top. Then I brush my wet hair. Then I check my phone to see if Valerie texted. Then—

Okay, enough procrastinating. My empty stomach agrees, rumbling the entire way down the spiral staircase.

In the kitchen, I find one of the twins at the stove, stirring a spatula in what looks like a wad of noodles. The other twin is poking his head in the fridge, griping to his brother.

“What the hell, man. I thought Sandra was back from vacation.”

“Tomorrow,” the other twin answers.

“Thank fuck. Since when do housekeepers go on vacay? I’m tired of cooking our own meals. We shoulda gone out for dinner with Dad ’n Reed.”

My forehead wrinkles as I absorb the information. One, these boys are so spoiled—they can’t even cook their own meals? And two, Reed went out for dinner with Callum? Did Callum hold a gun to his head?

The twin at the stove notices me lurking in the doorway and frowns. “What are you looking at?”

I shrug. “Just watching you burn your dinner.”

His head whirls to the pan, and he groans when he notices the smoke rising from it. “Goddammit! Seb, grab an oven mitt!”

Jeez, these boys really are useless. What the heck does he plan on doing with the oven mitt?

The question answers itself when Sawyer slips on the mitt his brother tosses him and lifts the pan by its handle, which, unless it’s a defective pan, wouldn’t have a hot handle. I get a kick out of watching the boys try to salvage their dinner, and I can’t fight a snicker when hot oil splashes out of the pan and burns Sawyer’s non-oven-mitt-covered wrist.

He howls in pain as his brother shuts off the burner. Then they both stare at the burnt chicken and noodles in dismay.

“Cereal?” Sebastian says.

Sawyer sighs.

Even with the terrible burning smell in the air, my stomach is still growling, so I saunter over to the wall of cupboards and start grabbing ingredients while the twins watch me warily.

“I’m making spaghetti,” I tell them without turning around. “Do you want any?”

There’s a long silence before one of them mumbles “yes.” The other follows suit.

I cook in silence while they sit at the table like the lazy, entitled Royals that they are, neither one offering to help me. Twenty minutes later, the three of us are eating our dinner. Not a single word passes between us.

Easton walks in at the tail end of the meal, his eyes narrowing when he spots me shoving my plate in the dishwasher. Then he looks at the table, where his brothers are on their second helping of spaghetti.

“Sandra back from vacation?”

Sebastian shakes his head and shovels more pasta into his mouth.

His twin jerks his head toward me. “She cooked.”

“She has a name,” I say curtly. “And you’re welcome for dinner. Ungrateful jerks.” I mutter that last part under my breath as I stalk out of the kitchen.

Instead of going back to my room, I find myself wandering into the library. Callum showed it to me the other day, and I’m still in awe of the sheer amount of books in the room. The built-in bookshelves go all the way up to the ceiling, and there’s an old-timey ladder you can use to reach the top shelves. On the other side of the room is a cozy sitting area with two overstuffed chairs positioned in front of a modern fireplace.

I don’t feel like reading, but I flop down in one of the chairs anyway, breathing in the scent of leather and old books. As my gaze moves to the fireplace mantle, my heart speeds up. Photographs line the stone ledge, and one in particular snags my attention. It’s a shot of a young-looking Callum in a Navy uniform, with his arm slung over the shoulder of a tall, blond man also in uniform.

I think it’s Steve O’Halloran. My father.

I stare at the man’s chiseled face, the blue eyes that seem to twinkle with mischief as they meet the camera lens. I have his eyes. And my hair is the same shade of blond.

When footsteps echo behind me, I turn to see Easton stride into the library.

“I heard you tried to kill my brother today,” he drawls.

“He had it coming.” I turn my back to him again, but he comes up beside me, and from the corner of my eye I see that his profile is harder than stone.

“Let’s be straight with each other. Did you really think you’d show up here on our father’s arm and we’d all be cool with it?”

“I’m not on your father’s arm. I’m his ward.”

“Yeah? Look me in the eye and tell me you’re not fucking my dad.”

For God’s sake. Gritting my teeth, I meet his surly gaze head-on and say, “I’m not fucking your dad. And ew for even suggesting it.”

He shrugs. “It’s not a stretch. He likes ’em young.”

That’s obviously a reference toward Brooke, but I don’t comment on it. My gaze travels back to the picture on the mantle.

Easton and I go silent, for so long I wonder why he’s even still here.

“Uncle Steve was a baller,” he finally says. “Chicks dropped their panties when that dude walked into a room.”

Double ew. That is not something I ever wanted to know about my father.

“What was he like?” I ask reluctantly.

“He was all right, I guess. We didn’t spend much time with him. He was always holed up in my dad’s study. The two of them would sit there talking for hours.” Easton sounds bitter.

“Aw, your daddy liked my daddy better than you? Is that why you hate me so much?”

He rolls his eyes. “Do yourself a favor and stop provoking my brother. If you keep getting in his face, you’re just gonna get hurt.”

“Why bother with the warning? Isn’t that what you want, for me to get hurt?”

He doesn’t answer. He just steps away from the mantle and leaves me in the library, where I continue to stare at my father’s picture.

* * *

I wake up at midnight to the sound of hushed voices in the hallway outside my bedroom door. I’m groggy as hell, but alert enough to recognize Reed’s voice, and even though I’m lying down, my knees actually feel weak.

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