Paper Princess Page 60

“I have no clue. They live close to here and are having a beach party tonight.”

“Oh, then the telecom Worthingtons. They live about five houses down.” She holds up her can. “Do you have a coaster?”

I throw her a notebook, which she uses to set her can on.

“Brent Worthington is a senior. He’s super uptight, although more about name recognition than money. His girlfriend Lindsey’s parents had to declare bankruptcy a couple of years ago and pulled Lindsey from Astor Park because they couldn’t afford the tuition, but Brent never broke up with her because Lindsey is a DAR.”

“What do the Dars do?” I ask.

Valerie laughs and shakes her head. “No, that’s not a last name. Daughters of the American Revolution. She can trace her family tree back to one of the original three boats that came over from England.”

“That’s a thing?” I gape.

“Yup. So what’s going on?”

“The Royals are going there tonight and told me to stay away.”

“Why? Those parties are pretty bland as far as high school events go. They lock all the doors in the house because Brent doesn’t want anyone having sex in the rooms. There’s one bathroom that people are allowed to use and it’s right off the patio. The pool house is locked, too. Brent has it catered and likes for everyone to show up like they’re about to go yachting. He even wears his country club sports coat and all of the girls wear dresses. No exceptions.”

Sounds terrible. If the Royals had given me this rundown, they wouldn’t have even needed to warn me away. But they did, so that means something is happening that they don’t want me to see or be a part of.

“Would Daniel Delacorte be invited?”

She considers it and then nods slowly. “Yeah. His father is a judge. I think Daniel plans to be one, too, and you can’t have too many judges as your BFFs, right?”

It occurs to me then and there that this is why the rich get richer. They form these bonds in high school, maybe even earlier, and when they get older, they just continue to scratch each other’s backs.

“Did something happen between you and Daniel the other night? I know you were hung over but Jordan said you were so trashed Reed had to carry you out of Farris’s house. He didn’t…do something?” She looks worried.

I don’t want to tell Valerie about the awfulness of that night, but if she’s going to be involved, then she deserves something. “He thought I was easy. I’m not. And the Royals don’t like it when their maybe, not really, but kind of sister is messed with. Let’s leave it at that.”

She screws up her face. “God, what a douche. But why am I here if the Royals are already exacting revenge?”

“I don’t know if they are, only that three of them told me I wasn’t to come to the Worthington party tonight no matter what.”

Valerie’s eyes light up. “I love that you don’t care what the Royals think.” She hops off the bed and throws open my closet door. “Let’s see what Worthington-approved dresses you have.”

I drink the rest of my Coke as Valerie rifles through, and discards, item after item.

“You need more clothes. Even the Carringtons stuff my closet full of anything I want. It keeps up appearances, you know. I didn’t realize Callum was that stingy with you.”

“He’s not,” I answer, stung on Callum’s behalf. “I had to go shopping with Brooke and the places she took me were too expensive.”

“Everything around here is expensive.” Valerie waves her hand. “Think of it as an extension of your uniform. Besides, if you look bad, then people will think the same thing I did—that Callum is being cheap with you. Ah ha!” She pulls out a navy sundress with tiny cap sleeves and a deep V-neck edged in white lace. I don’t remember seeing it, which means Brooke must have picked it out when I wasn’t looking. “This is nice. It has a deep neckline that says I’m sexy without saying I charge fifty bucks and I’d like my cash up front.”

“I’m bowing to your better judgment.” In my former line of work, you’d need a neckline a heck of a lot deeper than that to get fifty bucks up front. I cross the room and start to change. It’s getting late and I want to make sure I head over to the party before the fireworks start.

“You okay if I borrow this dress?” Valerie drapes a white lace number against her body.

“Knock yourself out.” She’s an inch shorter than me and given the length of the skirt, the hem should hit her around mid-thigh. “Out of curiosity, how many dresses do I need?” Two seems plenty.

“A couple dozen.”

I whirl around, but Valerie looks dead serious. “You’re joking.”

“I’m not.” She hangs the dress back in the closet and starts poking up her fingers one by one. “You need afternoon dresses, boating dresses, clubbing dresses—both the country club and the night club kind”—my head is spinning— “garden party dresses, official school party dresses, after school dresses, wedding dresses, funeral dresses—”

“Did you say funeral dresses?” I interrupt.

Valerie points her finger and winks. “Just making sure you were paying attention.” She laughs when I roll my eyes, and starts undressing. “You do need a lot more clothes than you have. Appearances are important, even to the Royals.” Her voice is muffled as she pulls her shirt over her head. “Example—say even the most minor negative thing about Maria Royal and all her sons go crazy. Reed almost got locked up for assault after some kid from South East High called her a pill-popping suicide case.”

“He accused Maria of killing herself?” I exclaim, shocked by that.

Valerie looks around as if expecting to see Reed jump out at her. Then she lowers her voice and says, “It’s a rumor, and one the Royals don’t like. They even sued Maria’s doctor for malpractice.”

“Did they win?”

“It was settled and the doctor left the practice and the state so…yes?”

“Wow.”

“Anyway,” Valerie continues, “they’re fiercely protective of their mom, and I’d guess it would be important that people outside of the family believe they’re treating you right.”

A pang hits me. Is that what Reed is doing? Just making sure he upholds the family reputation? No, it can’t be. All the things we did in here, on that silk blanket and under it, were private and had nothing to do with any Royal reputation.

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