Paper Princess Page 52

I hold my breath, waiting for him to answer, but all he does is drop my hair and grab the door handle.

Without turning back to look at me, he says, “Daniel’s a good guy. Maybe you should give him a chance.”

* * *

I sit in the car after he leaves so I can regain my composure. Neither of us explicitly stated it, but I know it’s out in the open now. I laid my feelings out there and he told me to keep them. He did it in a nice way, but a clean knife still makes a painful wound.

Brooke is sitting poolside when I enter the house. She seems to have recovered from last night’s drinking session. She’s babbling away to Reed, who stands next to her lounger, stiff as a board, as her hand runs up and down his bare calf. I’ve seen her touching Gideon like that, too, and I wonder why the boys put up with that. I know they can’t stand her. If there was one thing that Callum could do to repair his relationship with his sons, it would be to jettison Brooke.

Lonely and irritated, I seek out Easton, who’s slumped on his bed watching a car show where they take it apart and put it back together so it looks like a cartoon vehicle.

“So we’re trucing, huh?” He grins when he spots me.

“Is that even a word?” I ask as I walk into his room.

“It sounds like a word, so I guess it has to be.”

“Douchetard sounds like a word, too, but I’m pretty sure you won’t find it in the dictionary.”

“You calling me a douchetard?”

“Naah. You’re just a regular old douche.”

“Aw, thanks, little sis.”

“You know we’re the same age, right?” I roll my eyes and climb onto the bed next to him. Easton rolls over to make room for me.

“I’ve always been older and wiser than my years.”

“Uh-huh. Sure.”

“Seriously, though. Reed says we’re all cool now. Is this for real, or are you playing another game?”

“I was never playing a game to begin with,” I grumble. “And yeah, I think it’s for real.” He looks more relieved than I expected. “Anyway, I wanted to ask you something. What do you think of Daniel Delacorte?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“He asked me out after he heard you kissed me. Apparently that was like the kiss of approval.”

Easton waggles his eyebrows at me. “I’m magical, aren’t I?”

“You’re something.” I throw a pillow at his head, which he catches and tucks under his chest. “Why did you kiss me?”

“I was horny. You were there. I wanted to kiss you.” He shrugs and turns back to the television. Felt good. Wanted to. It’s so simple for Easton. He’s driven by his base urges. Eat, drink, kiss, repeat.

“Why’d you kiss me?” he counters.

My reasons seem more complicated. I wanted to make Reed jealous. I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else in that club that I was desirable. I wanted a warm, affectionate touch from someone—anyone. I guess my reasons aren’t so different from Easton’s, after all. “I wanted to.”

“Want another go at me?” He pats his cheek in invitation.

Laughing, I shake my head.

“How come?” He’s unfazed by my rejection.

“Because…just because.” I avert my eyes.

“Nuh-uh, you’re not getting off that easy. I want you to say it. Tell your big brother about your crush on your other big brother.”

“You’re imagining things. I’m not crushing on Reed,” I lie.

“Bull.”

“I’m not,” I insist, but Easton sees right through me.

“Shit, Ella, I need a smoke every time you two are within five feet of each other.” He grins, but almost immediately sobers. “Look, I like you. Didn’t think I would but I do, and because I like you, I feel the need to warn you that we Royals are pretty fucked up. We’re good in bed, but out of it? We’re like a stage four hurricane.”

“And Daniel?”

“He’s a good guy. Isn’t a slut like me. Guys on the lacrosse team like him. His dad’s a judge.”

“Any rumors about him?”

“Not that I know of. You planning on hooking up?”

“Savannah said—”

“You can’t listen to a word she says,” Easton interrupts.

I eye him suspiciously. “Why not?”

“She and Gid had a thing last year.”

My jaw falls open. Seriously? Savannah and Gideon? I think back to the campus tour, to Savannah’s blunt explanation of how the Royals run the school, but I don’t remember her showing any emotion when she said it. Except…she had been staring at him during Jordan’s party. Staring hard, like she was trying to mentally erase him from her sight.

“Savannah was this awkward middle-schooler,” Easton continues. “Braces. Kind of weird hair. Don’t know what she did to it. Maybe a different cut or something. Anyway she comes into tenth grade totally changed. Gid took one look at her and slapped his name on her ass. But sometime around Uncle Steve’s death, things changed. He dropped her hard and she’s been a Bitter Betty ever since.”

“Damn,” I whistle. Savannah and Gideon. I can’t even picture them as a couple.

“Told you. Stage four hurricane.” He makes a wrecking motion with his hand, then sighs and turns back to the TV.

23

Daniel is waiting at my locker the next morning. Even though Reed and Easton both gave me their approval, I’m still torn about Daniel. But I need to move on from Reed. That much is clear.

Daniel barely has a chance to say hello before I lay down the law. “I need to tell you up front that I’m the opposite of a sure thing,” I explain awkwardly. “Right now I’m dealing with big changes in my life and I can’t handle anything heavy.”

“I got you,” he promises. He leans down and plants a soft kiss on my cheek. “You’re sweet. I can wait.”

I’m sweet? Other than my mom, nobody has ever called me that. I think I kind of like it.

* * *

Daniel meets me at my locker every day after that, sharing something funny and then leaving me with a kiss on the cheek. Easton teases me about it at night, but every time I look at Reed for a response, his face is impenetrable. I have no idea how he feels about all the attention I’m getting from Daniel, but at least our truce is still intact. Even Callum has noticed the difference in the Royal mansion. When he walked past my bedroom the other night and saw me and Easton watching TV together, I swear his eyebrows almost jumped off his face.

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