Paper Princess Page 59

He nods. “You should eat something.”

“I did.”

“Then eat more.”

“Trust me, I’m stuffed.” A grin springs to my lips. “Valerie shoved an insane amount of shrimp and crab legs down my throat at lunch.”

His lips twitch.

Smile, I beg silently at him. Smile at me. Touch me. Kiss me. Anything.

The smile doesn’t surface. “Listen, about last night…” He clears his throat. “I need to know something.”

My forehead creases. “Okay.”

“Did you…was it…” He lets out a breath. “Do you feel like I took advantage of you?”

“What? Of course not.”

But the intensity in his eyes doesn’t waver. “You need to be straight with me. If you feel like I took advantage, or did anything you didn’t want me to do…you have to tell me.”

I sit up and lean toward him, cupping his face with both hands. “You didn’t do anything that I didn’t want you to do.”

His relief is obvious. When I sweep my thumbs over his jaw, his breath hitches. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what?” I whisper.

“You know what.” Groaning, he moves my hands off his face and rises unsteadily to his feet. “It can’t happen again. I won’t let it.”

Frustration jams inside me. “Why not?”

“Because it’s not right. I’m not…I don’t want you, okay?” A sneer forms. “I was being nice to you last night because you were hopped up on E and you needed some relief. I was just doing you a solid, but that’s all it was. I don’t want you.”

He marches away before I can answer. Or rather, before I can call him a big fat liar. He doesn’t want me? Bullshit. If he didn’t want me, then he wouldn’t have kissed me like he was a starving man and I was his only source of nourishment. If he didn’t want me, he wouldn’t have worshipped my body like it was the greatest gift he’d ever received, or held me in his arms until I fell asleep.

He’s lying to me, and now my concern levels are at an all-time high. Not just concern, but determination, because clearly Reed Royal has secrets I can’t even begin to decode.

But I will. I’m going to find out everything. Why he keeps everyone at a distance, why he feels unworthy, why he’s pretending there isn’t something between us when we both know there is. I’m going to learn all his secrets, dammit.

Which means…I guess I’m going to another party tonight.

26

I need reinforcements or, at the very least, intel. From what Gideon said, the Worthingtons live down the shore and close enough that you must be able to hear some noise at the Royal property. They also must have kids close in age to the Royal brothers. But that’s about it.

Good thing I know someone who’s gossip central.

Valerie answers on the first ring. “You need more seafood? I told you that the best cure for a hangover is food.”

The thought of even one more piece of shellfish in my stomach makes me want to barf. “No thanks. I was wondering if you were done Skyping with Tam and wanted to come over and spy on the Royals with me.”

Valerie sucks in a breath. “I’ll be right over.”

“Hey,” I interject before she hangs up. “Do you have a car?”

“No. And you can’t ask one of the brothers to pick me up, can you?” she says glumly.

“Don’t worry. Durand will pick you up. Hell, once I tell Callum I want to have a friend over, he’ll volunteer.”

“Oh, Callum. Nice. He’s hot for an old guy.”

“Gross, Valerie. He’s like over forty.”

“So? He’s what they call a silver fox. You know who’s into those?”

“I have no idea. One of the Pastels?”

“Oh hell no. Those girls wouldn’t know what to do with an adult male, let alone one with a few decades under his belt. Jordan’s older sister! She’s twenty-two and constantly bringing home old guys. The last one actually had gray hair and I swear he was older than Uncle Brian. I can’t decide whether she’s super kinky and these are the only guys who know what they’re doing, or if she has daddy issues.”

“My insult to Jordan at her party might have hit a little too close to home then?”

“Probably didn’t help,” Valerie says cheerfully.

“I’m hanging up now because I’m seriously thinking of vomiting up my lunch over this discussion.” I lay the phone down and try to scrub any thoughts of Callum doing kinky things from my brain.

Fortunately, Durand is available and Valerie is brought to the Royal estate in quick order.

“Wow, this place is so…” She gropes for the right word as she gapes at my bedroom.

I supply several. “Juvenile? Girlie? An homage to Valentine’s Day gone wrong?”

She falls backward on the pink ruffled bedspread. “Interesting.”

“That’s one word for it.” I settle into the white fur-covered vanity chair and watch Valerie bat at the sheer curtains that hang around the four-poster bed. “Want something to drink? I actually have a mini fridge in here.” I open the glass door of the beverage cooler situated under the counter of the vanity.

“Sure. I’ll have diet whatever. Besides the pink, this is a great room. Television, posh bed.” She touches the bedspread. “Is this silk?”

I have my hand in the fridge when she drops that bomb. “I’m sleeping on a silk blanket?”

“Technically you sleep under it. I mean, you don’t have to but you’re supposed to sleep on the sheets and under the coverlet.” Valerie looks all concerned as if my upbringing was so bizarre I might not know about sheets. Sadly, she’s not that far from the truth.

“I know that, smart ass.” I pull out a Diet Coke and shove it in her hand. I pop one open for myself. “It’s just weird. I went from sleeping bag to silk blankets or—excuse me—coverlets,” I correct myself before Valerie can. But enough about bed stuff. I need intel. “Tell me everything you know about the Worthingtons,” I order.

“The telecom Worthingtons or the real estate Worthingtons?” she asks, her mouth still around the opening of the pop can.

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