Paper Princess Page 29

I haven’t seen him since our fight in the car earlier. When he got back from dinner with Callum, I was already locked up in my room again, but judging by the angry footsteps and slamming door, I’m pretty sure dinner didn’t go so well.

I don’t know why I slide out of bed, or why I tiptoe toward my door. Eavesdropping isn’t really my style, but I want to know what he’s saying and who he’s saying it to. I want to know if it’s about me, and maybe that’s really conceited, but I still need to know.

“…practice in the morning.” It’s Easton talking now, and I press my ear to the door to try to hear more clearly. “…agreed to cut down during the season.”

Reed mutters something I can’t make out.

“I get it, okay? I’m not crazy about her being here either, but that’s no reason to…” Easton’s sentence cuts out.

“It’s not about her.” I hear that loud and clear, and I don’t know whether I’m relieved or disappointed that whatever they’re discussing doesn’t involve me.

“…then I’m coming with you.”

“No,” Reed says sharply. “…going alone tonight.”

He’s going somewhere? Where the hell is he going this late, and on a school night? Worry tugs at my gut, which almost makes me laugh, because all of a sudden I’m worrying about Reed Royal, the guy I attacked in the car earlier?

“Now you sound like Gid,” Reed accuses.

“Yeah, well, maybe you…”

Their voices go hushed again, which is so fricking frustrating because I know I’m missing something important.

I’m tempted to fling open the door and stop Reed from doing whatever he’s about to do, but it’s too late. Two sets of footsteps echo in the hall, and a door clicks shut. Then it’s just one set of footsteps, barely audible as they descend the stairs.

A few minutes later, a car engine rumbles from the courtyard, and I know Reed is gone.

14

The next morning I find Reed in the driveway leaning against Easton’s truck. He’s dressed in sneakers, long gym shorts, and a muscle tee that is open at the sides, and looking hotter than any jerk has the right to. A baseball cap is pulled low over his forehead.

I look around, but the black Town Car is nowhere in sight. “Where’s Durand?”

“You planning on going to the bakery?”

“You planning on burning it down so I don’t tarnish the Royal name by working there?”

He grumbles in annoyance.

I grumble back.

“Well?” he mutters.

I scowl at him. “Yes, I’m going to work.”

“I’ve got football practice, so if you want a ride, I suggest getting in the car because otherwise you’re going to be walking.” He opens the passenger door and then stomps to the driver’s side.

I look for Durand again. Dammit, where is he?

When Reed guns the engine, I start moving. What harm can he really do in a twenty-minute ride?

“Buckle up,” he snaps.

“I just got in. Give me a minute.” I cast my eyes upward and say a tiny prayer for patience. Reed doesn’t take off until I’m all buckled in. “Do you have male PMS or are you just in a shitty mood twenty-four/seven?”

He doesn’t answer.

I hate myself for it, but I can’t stop looking at him. Can’t stop sweeping my eyes over the side of his movie-star face, his perfect ear that is framed by his dark hair. All the Royals have varying shades of brown hair. Reed’s runs closer to chestnut.

In profile, his nose has a tiny bump on it and I wonder which of his brothers broke it for him.

It’s really not fair how hot this guy is. And he’s got this whole bad boy vibe that I’m not usually into, but for some reason it makes him even hotter. I guess I like bad boys.

Wait, what the hell am I thinking? I don’t like bad boys, and I don’t like Reed. He’s the biggest asshole I’ve ever—

“Why are you staring at me?” he asks in annoyance.

I push away all my crazy thoughts and counter, “Why not?”

“Like the way I look, do you?” he taunts.

“Nope, just committing to memory the profile of a jackass. You know, so if I’m ever called upon to draw one in art, I’ll have some inspiration,” I reply airily.

He grunts and it sounds suspiciously like a laugh. For the first time in his presence, I start to relax.

The rest of the trip passes quickly, almost too quickly. I feel a tiny kernel of disappointment when the bakery comes into view, which is all sorts of fucked up because I don’t like this guy.

“You driving me every day or just this morning?” I ask when he brakes in front of the French Twist.

“Depends. How long you planning on keeping up the charade?”

“It’s not a charade. It’s called earning a living.”

I get out of the truck before he can manage another stupid and mean retort.

“Hey,” he calls after me.

“What?” I turn around, and that’s when I get my first full look at his face this morning. My hand flies up to cover my mouth. The left side of his face, a part that I now realize he kept shaded from me the entire ride, is bruised. His lip is puffy. There’s a gash over his eye and a bruise on the upper edge of his cheek. “Oh my God, what happened to you?”

I raise my fingers to his face, not realizing that my feet carried me from the bakery back to the truck.

He jerks away from my touch. “Nothing.”

My hand falls uselessly to my side. “It doesn’t look like nothing.”

“It is to you.”

Grim faced, he speeds off, leaving me behind to wonder what he did last night and why he called me over just now if he wasn’t planning on saying anything important. I do know one thing. If I got hit that hard in the face, I’d be pissy the next morning, too.

Despite my better judgment, I worry about Reed throughout my morning shift at the bakery. Lucy casts me some concerned looks but since I work hard like I’d promised, she doesn’t say anything.

After my shift, I hurry off to school, but I don’t see Reed. Not on the path leading to the gym, not in the halls, and not even at lunch. It’s like he doesn’t even go to Astor Park.

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