Paper Princess Page 38

“One of the twins blurted it out, probably while he was getting head.”

“Sawyer then. Can’t keep his mouth shut when there’s a bitch around his dick.”

“Truth.” A drawer slams shut. “You know, you could use this. I mean, hell, if she’s attracted to you, then use her. Stick with her. Find out what she really wants. I’m still not convinced that her and Dad don’t have something going on.”

“She said she wasn’t doing him.”

“And you believed that?”

“Maybe.” Reed’s disbelief infects Easton. “How many guys you think she’s been with?”

“Who knows. Gold diggers like her will open their legs to anyone who waves a few dollars in front of ’em.”

I’m not a gold digger! I want to shout. And these jerks couldn’t be more wrong about my active “sex life.” I haven’t even given a blowjob before. On the sex scale, I veer closer to prude than pro.

“Think she could teach me something?” Easton wonders.

“How an STD feels. But if you want to fuck her, then do it. I don’t care.”

“Really? Because you’re throwing that football hard enough that it sounds like you care.”

The thumping stops. “You’re right. I do care.”

My hand creeps up to my throat. Thud. Thud. Thud. They toss the ball back and forth. Or maybe that’s the hope in my heart.

“I care about you. I care if you get hurt, sick, whatever. I don’t give two shits about her, though.”

I look down at my hand, expecting to see blood from the wound he just slashed open. But there’s nothing there.

* * *

My alarm goes off at five. My eyes are crusty and I feel sore all over. I might have cried a little before I fell asleep but this morning I feel a renewed sense of determination. There’s no point in wanting the Royals to like me, especially Reed. Steve’s widow is a bitch, but at least it’s obvious so I know what to watch for. That goes double for Easton. If he tries to use me, then I’ll use him right back.

After all, I don’t have any secrets. They’re all written out in some report of Callum’s.

I lace up my sneakers and shoulder my backpack that is ten grand lighter. I decided it was too stressful to be carrying around that load of cash, so I taped it to the underside of the sink in the bathroom. Hopefully it’ll be safe there.

Being up this early on a Saturday morning is so disorienting, but Lucy asked me to come in today and help her with a cake order, and I didn’t feel right saying no. Besides, I could use all the extra cash I can get.

In the hallway, I try to be as quiet as possible so I don’t wake up the Royals. I’m so focused on tiptoeing down the stairs that I almost topple over when I hear Reed’s low voice behind me.

“Where are you going?”

Hmm, that’d be none of your business. I figure if I don’t engage him then he’ll just go back to his room.

“Whatever,” he mutters when my silence drags on. “I don’t give a shit.”

After his bedroom door clicks shut, I give myself a pat on the back for alienating another person in my life and slip out through the front door. It’s still dark out as I walk to the bus stop. When I reach it, I tuck myself inside the little bus shelter and try to shut out every bad thing in my life.

My skill, if I have one, isn’t dancing. It’s my ability to believe that tomorrow can be a better day. I don’t really know where I got this optimism. Maybe it was from Mom. Somewhere along the line, I started thinking that if I just got through this bad experience, this bad day, that tomorrow I’d have something better, brighter, newer.

I still believe that. I still believe that there’s something good out there for me. I just have to keep going until my time comes, because surely, surely, none of this would happen if there wasn’t a reward down the line.

I take a deep breath. The salt of the sea makes the air taste fresh and tangy. As terrible as the Royals are, as awful as Dinah O’Halloran is, today is better than a week ago. I have a warm bed, nice clothes, plenty of food. I’m attending a really amazing school. I have a girlfriend.

It’s all going to be okay.

Really.

I arrive at the bakery feeling better than I have in days. It must show because Lucy compliments me immediately.

“You look gorgeous this morning. Oh, to be young again.” She clucks in mock dismay.

“You look amazing yourself, Luce,” I tell her as I tie on an apron. “And something smells delicious. What are those?” I point to the little domes of glazed goodness.

“Mini monkey bread. It’s tiny pieces of cinnamon-flavored bread dough mixed with caramel and butter. Want one?”

I nod so enthusiastically that my head nearly falls off. “I think I orgasmed just smelling them.”

Lucy laughs in delight, her short curls bouncing around her head. “Then have one and I’ll show you how to make four dozen more.”

“I can’t wait.”

The mini monkey breads are a hit. We sell out of them before eight o’clock and Lucy sends me into the back to make more before my shift is over. At eleven forty-five, Valerie shows up and I’m in such a good mood, I practically tackle-hug her.

“What are you doing here?” I ask happily, squeezing her tight before releasing her.

“I was in the neighborhood. What’s up with you?” Valerie laughs. “Did you get laid last night?”

“No, but I did have pastry-induced orgasms all morning.” I pull a just-baked goodie from the shelf and hand it to her.

Valerie picks off a piece of the bread and starts moaning when the sugar hits her tongue. “Oh my God.”

“Right?” I giggle.

“Is Durand picking you up or do need a ride home? I have a car today!” Valerie says between shoving her mouth full of carbs.

“I’d love a ride.” I pull off the apron and hurry to get my things. “Okay if I go, Luce?”

She waves me off, busy with another customer.

Valerie’s car is an older model Honda and it looks out of place amongst the Mercedes, Land Rovers, and Audis that fill the parking spots outside.

“It’s Tam’s mom’s car,” she explains. “I offered to pick up a few things for her.”

“That’s cool.” Shyly, I share, “Callum says I’m getting a car, so once that arrives, you can borrow it whenever you want.”

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