Paper Princess Page 50

Still, by the time lunch rolls around, I’m ready to pull my hair out. Every girl that passes me in the hall looks ready to murder me. Easton makes it worse by going out of his way to pay a visit to my locker and give me a prolonged full-body hug. He pretends not to notice all the stares we’re getting, but I’m excruciatingly aware of them.

“You’re Ella, right?”

I’ve just shoved my textbooks in my locker when a guy with spiky blond hair and a striped rugby shirt approaches.

His question is ridiculous, because he damn well knows who I am. These kids have all gone to school together since kindergarten probably, and there isn’t a single soul at Astor Park Prep who doesn’t know about the new “Royal.”

“Yeah.” I paste on an indifferent look. “And you are?”

“Daniel Delacorte.” He sticks out his hand, then awkwardly lowers it to his side when I don’t shake it. “I’ve wanted to introduce myself for a while, but…” He shrugs.

I roll my eyes. “But it was against Reed’s rules?”

He nods sheepishly.

God, these people are the worst. “So why are you introducing yourself now?”

That earns me another shrug. “A couple friends of mine were at the club on Saturday night. They said they saw you with Easton.”

“So?” I anticipate some kind of insult, but I don’t get one.

“So the rules have changed. Nobody was allowed to ask you out before because of Reed. But you were with Easton the other night, so things are different now.”

Wait, he’s asking me out?

I narrow my eyes at him. “What, you’re not going to call me a slut for making out with Easton at a club?”

His lips twitch with humor. “If I called every girl who’s made out with Easton a slut, there’d be no one left in the school.”

I can’t help but laugh.

“I’m serious,” Daniel insists. “Drunken make-outs with Easton Royal are like a rite of passage at Astor Park.”

“Are you speaking from personal experience?” I ask politely.

He flashes a grin. The guy’s cute, I’ll give him that. “Luckily, no. Anyway, I just came over to ask if you wanted to go out for dinner sometime.”

A jolt of suspicion travels through me, and Daniel must sense it because he quickly says, “It doesn’t have to be a date. We could make it a friend thing if that makes you more comfortable. I just want to get to know the girl who’s got all the Royal panties in a twist.”

I’m still hesitating, so he lets out a hasty breath. “Can I see your phone?”

Although I’m not sure why, I stick my hand in my back pocket and pull out my phone, passing it over to him.

His fingers move briskly over the touchpad. “There. You’ve got my number now. So how about this? Think it over, and if you decide you want to do dinner, shoot me a text.”

“Um. Okay. Sure.”

Daniel smiles again and gives me a little salute before striding off. I watch him go, my gaze focusing on his cute butt. He’s got the toned body of an athlete, and I suddenly wonder if he’s on the football team. I hope not, because that means Reed will probably hear about Daniel asking me out when they’re at their afternoon practice.

But I underestimated the grapevine at this school. The news of Daniel’s invitation comes out literally five minutes after he issued it. I’m two steps from the cafeteria when I get a text message from Valerie.

Daniel Delacorte asked u out????

I respond with yeah.

Did u say yes?

I said I’d think about it.

Don’t think 2 hard. He’s one of the nicer ones.

Another text quickly pops up. Captain of the lacrosse team. She adds this as if that makes a difference to me.

Rolling my eyes, I enter the cafeteria and track Val down at our usual table in the corner. She grins the moment she sees me, tucks her phone away, and says, “Okay. Tell me everything. Did he get down on one knee? Did he give you flowers?”

For the next hour, she barrages me with questions about a guy I only spoke to for two minutes. Truthfully, it’s a nice distraction from this morning’s whisper fest, and it stops me from obsessing over what Reed will have to say when he finds out.

22

I don’t see Reed until after school, and when I do, he’s not racing over to demand that I stay away from Daniel. Instead, he’s bracing himself against the driver’s side door talking to Abby. And the soft blonde is leaning against Reed’s Rover with one hand on his hip. The whole scene makes me want to gag.

“They look cozy.”

I turn to see Savannah next to me. We haven’t spoken at all since the day she gave me a tour of the campus, so I’m surprised to find her there. “I guess.”

“Heard Daniel Delacorte asked you out today.” She smooths a hand over her stick-straight hair.

“Apparently it’s a slow news day at school,” I joke. “But yes.”

“Don’t do it,” she says abruptly. “You’ll regret it if you do.”

After dropping that bomb, she steps off the curb and hurries to her car, leaving me open-mouthed and confused.

Before I can make sense of the warning, a low slung convertible sports car moves into my line of vision. Daniel smiles up at me from the driver’s seat.

“Nice car.” I peer at the interior. It’s black and full of shiny dials. “Sounds like a beast.”

“Thanks. Gift from the parents when I was sixteen. I was a little concerned when I heard it had four hundred horsepower. I wondered if my dad thought I needed to overcompensate for something.”

I grin. That he has the ability to make a joke about himself makes me warm up to him. “And do you?”

“Ella,” he tsks jokingly. “You’re supposed to reassure me that I have nothing to worry about in the man department.”

“How would I know?” I tease.

“Here’s a secret.” He leans across the console and gestures for me to come closer. “We males have very fragile egos. It’s best to always compliment us so that we don’t turn into psychopaths.”

“You have nothing to worry about in the man department,” I dutifully reply.

“That’s my girl.” He nods in approval. “Want a ride home?”

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