Paper Princess Page 37

Beside me, Easton bursts out laughing. I realize this is the first time I’ve heard genuine laughter in the Royal palace. “Did your mom freak?”

“Oh yeah. God. You should’ve seen it. I was stumbling up and down the aisle, this ten-year-old girl, slurring like a wino—‘whadda you mean you won’ buy me a hot dog?’”

We’re both laughing now, the mattress shaking beneath us. It’s nice. So of course that means it doesn’t last long.

Easton abruptly goes silent for a moment, then twists his head to meet my eyes. “Were you really a stripper?”

I stiffen. The word no bites at my tongue. But what does it matter at this point? The kids at school are going to say I stripped, regardless of whether or not it’s true.

So I nod.

He looks impressed. “That’s kind of badass.”

“No. It’s not.”

He shifts, and his shoulder grazes mine. I don’t know if it’s intentional on his part, but when his face turns toward mine again, I know he’s totally aware of the contact between our bodies.

“You know, you’re hot when you’re not snarling.” His gaze fixes on my mouth.

I’m frozen in place, but it’s not fear that’s making my heart pound. Easton’s eyes are dark with need. They’re the same shade of blue as Reed’s.

“You should go.” I swallow. “I want to go to bed now.”

“No, you don’t.”

He’s right. I don’t. My thoughts are jumbled. I’m thinking of Reed, and his strong jaw and perfect face. Easton has the same jaw. Before I can stop myself, my hand reaches out to touch it.

A husky noise escapes his lips. He leans into my fingers. His stubble scrapes along my soft skin.

I’m stunned to feel a rush of heat between my legs.

“You just had to come and screw everything up, didn’t you?” he mutters.

And then his lips press against mine.

My heart beats faster, in time to the pulse of the alcohol flowing through me. Sucking in a breath, I ease our mouths apart before the kiss can go any further.

I exhale in a rush, fully prepared to pretend that it didn’t happen, but I underestimated Easton Royal’s sex appeal. He’s gorgeous. His eyes are heavy-lidded, his jaw strong like his brother’s. His stupid brother. Why can’t I get Reed out of my head?

Easton shoves his fingers through my hair and tugs me toward him again. His lips brush mine, just briefly, before he pulls back. His gaze holds an invitation.

I touch his cheek and close my eyes. A clear signal. I didn’t realize how badly I’ve been craving human contact. A boy’s warm lips on mine, his hands stroking my hair. I might be a virgin, but I’ve fooled around before, and my body remembers how good that feels. I sag against Easton’s chest as our mouths meet again.

The next thing I know, he’s on top of me, the heavy weight of his body pressing me into the mattress. He moves his hips, and pleasure sweeps through me, making me tremble with need.

Easton kisses me again. Deep and hungry.

His tongue enters my mouth at the same time an incredulous voice says, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Easton and I break apart, both our heads swiveling toward the open doorway where Reed stands, staring at us in disbelief.

“Reed—” Easton starts, but it’s no use. His brother turns around and stalks off.

Reed’s footsteps are as loud as my pounding heart.

Beside me, Easton rolls onto his back. He stares up at the ceiling and whispers, “Shit.”

17

A second ticks by. Two. Three. And then Easton jackknives out of bed and runs out after Reed.

“I was drunk,” I hear him exclaim in the hallway.

And the burn of humiliation—the shame I swore I never felt—scorches me. He only kissed me because he was drunk.

“Whatever, East. You do what you want. You always do.” Reed sounds tired, and my stupid heart, the hungry and lonely one that allowed Easton to kiss me, aches for Reed.

“Screw you, Reed. You wanted me off painkillers and I am, but I got stomped by a three-hundred-pound heifer out there and my ribs hurt like a motherfucker. It’s either beer or oxy. Pick one.”

Easton’s voice trails off and I don’t hear Reed’s response. Against my better judgment, I creep over to my door and peek out into the hall. I’m just in time to see them both disappear into Reed’s room. My bare feet don’t make a sound as I tiptoe down the hall to the now closed door.

“Why aren’t you still at the party? Abby was all over you after the game,” Easton says. “Easy ass, dude.”

Reed snorts. “That’s why I’m here. I can’t go back to that well.”

“Why’d you go out with her in the first place?”

I hold my breath because it’s an answer I’d like to know, too. What exactly is Reed’s type?

There’s a thump and then another one, like something being throw at the wall.

“She…she reminded me of Mom. Soft. Quiet. Not pushy.”

“Like Ella.” Easton laughs sarcastically. Another thump, this time slightly muffled. “Hey, you almost hit me with that ball, fucker.”

They both laugh. Are they laughing at me?

“Stay away from her, East. You don’t know who she’s been with,” Reed warns, and now it sounds like they’re playing catch, just casually discussing my sexual history.

“Is she really a stripper?” Easton asks after a bit. “She told me she was, but it could’ve been a lie.”

“That’s what Brooke said. Plus it was in Dad’s report.”

Brooke told them that I stripped? So much for trusting her! And what the hell does he mean that Callum has a report on me?

“I never read it. Were there pictures?”

I roll my eyes at the eagerness in Easton’s voice.

“Yeah.”

“Of her stripping?” He’s even more excited.

“Naah. They were just of her doing normal shit.” Reed pauses. “She worked three jobs last summer. She clerked at a truck stop in the morning, did retail in the afternoon, and stripped at this kiddy bar at night.”

“Damn. That’s rough,” Easton sounds almost impressed. Not Reed, though. Reed comes off disgusted. “How’d Jordan find that out?”

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