Paper Princess Page 51

I straighten and scan the lot for Easton, the twins or even Durand, but it’s empty of Royals except for Reed, who doesn’t see me. His attention is on the angelic faery girl who reminds him of his mother.

Daniel tracks my eyes straight to the couple. “Abby and Reed,” he muses. “That’s a couple destined to be together.”

“Why do you say that?” I sound annoyed and I am, but I wish I hid it better.

“Reed’s picky, not like Easton. I’ve seen him with one girl the last two years. I think she’s it for him.”

“So why aren’t they together?”

We both watch as Reed’s head dips close to Abby’s, as if they’re about to kiss.

“Who says they’re not?” Daniel’s observations are careless, unintended to hurt me, but the pain spreads inside me anyway. “You give more thought to my proposal?”

My eyes shift away from Reed toward Daniel. Daniel is the quintessential rich boy. Kind of like what I thought the Royals would look like: blond hair, blue eyes and a face that probably adorns paintings in old English museums. The Royals are almost thuggish compared to his easy elegance. Any girl would be thrilled to be asked out on a date by Daniel, and I think it says something bad about me that I can’t summon up any excitement for him.

“I’m kind of a mess right now,” I inform him. “There’s better—more together—fish in the pond.”

He studies me for a moment. “I can’t figure out if you’re trying to let me down gently or if you aren’t giving yourself enough credit. Either way, I’m not giving up.”

I’m saved from making a response when a loud horn blasts behind us. We turn to see that Reed has maneuvered his Rover so close to Daniel’s sports car that the fenders are nearly kissing. The juxtaposition between the two vehicles is almost laughable, with the Rover towering over the smaller two-seater convertible. It looks like the Rover is just waiting to drive right over the top of Daniel’s car.

Daniel leans back into the driver’s seat and puts his car in gear. With a mischievous glint in his eyes, he tilts his head toward Reed. “Someone is overcompensating but I don’t think it’s me.”

With that, he peels away, leaving a space that Reed quickly occupies. Daniel’s wrong. Reed has nothing to overcompensate for. His oversized SUV matches him perfectly.

“You going out with him?” Reed asks the moment I close the passenger door.

“Daniel?”

“Did some other guy ask you out, too?”

I wish he wasn’t wearing sunglasses. I can’t see his eyes. Is he mad? Frustrated? Pleased?

“No, just Daniel. And I’m thinking about it.” I search his profile. “Any reason not to?”

A muscle in his jaw flexes. If he gives me the smallest opening, I’d take it. Come on, Reed. Come on.

He offers a brief glance before returning his eyes to the road. “I think we called a truce last night, right?”

I want it to be more than a truce, and the thought surprises me. A ceasefire is one thing, but admitting to myself—and to him—that I want to act on the attraction between us? That feels like a dangerous mistake.

“Yeah, something like that,” I murmur.

“Then I’d be a dick if I told you not to go out with him.”

No, I think, you’d be telling me you cared about me. “I don’t think looking out for someone’s well-being violates the spirit of our truce,” I say lightly.

“If you’re asking if he’s going to hurt you, I’d say no. Haven’t heard of him bragging in the locker room about girls he’s hooked up with. I think everyone considers him a decent guy.” Reed shrugs. “He’s with the lacrosse team. Those guys tend to stick together so I don’t know him too well, but well enough, I guess. If I had a sister, I wouldn’t object to her dating him.”

That’s not my question! I shout at him in my head. Out loud, I poke at him from a different angle. “Are you and Abby getting back together?”

“We were never together,” he says roughly.

“You looked kinda cozy just now. Daniel said you two are meant to be a couple.”

“Did he?” Reed sounds amused. “Didn’t know Daniel had that kind of interest in my love life.”

“So Abby is part of your love life?” I’m a glutton for punishment with all these questions.

“What exactly are you asking?” He turns left and I can’t see his face because of it.

Too embarrassed to press the topic, I slump back into the seat. “Nothing.”

After a beat, Reed sighs. “Look, I’m going away to college next year. And unlike Gideon I’m not coming back every other weekend. I need time away from this town. This family. Abby and I had a nice time, sure, but she’s not my future and I’m not going to dick her around—or anyone else, for that matter—just to get my nut off.”

And there’s my answer. Even if he is attracted to me—though I notice he was careful not to say it—he’s not going to do anything about it. He’s leaving as soon as possible. I should admire that kind of honesty, but I don’t. Some silly part of me wants him to declare that if he wanted me bad enough, no principles would ever prevent him from having me. God, I’m a sick puppy.

I turn away from him and watch the city pass us by as Reed navigates home.

Finally, tired of the silence, I blurt out, “Why do you fight? Is it for the money?”

He releases a sharp bark of laughter. “Hell no. I fight because it makes me feel good.”

“Because you won’t let yourself sleep with Abby? So you have to go out and pound a few guys to get rid of whatever is building up inside of you?” The words slip out before my brain catches up.

Reed stops the Rover and I look around, surprised to see we’re already home. He pulls off his sunglasses finally and stares at me.

My throat goes dry. “What is it?”

He reaches out and fingers a lock of my hair. His knuckles are inches away from my breast and it takes superhuman effort not to lean into his touch, not to press his hand fully against me.

“Do you really think it’s Abby who’s keeping me up at night?”

“I don’t know.” I hesitate. “I don’t want it to be.”

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