Paper Princess Page 61

I check the clock and realize I need to hurry. I change in a rush, but when I look in the mirror, I see a problem. “Val, this neckline is too low.” I turn so she can see that the white bow of my bra is showing.

She shrugs. “You’ll have to go without. Wear Band-Aids if you’re worried about nipping out.”

“I guess.” Although being in the same zip code as Daniel without wearing a bra kind of skeeves me out.

It takes us another half hour to fix our hair and makeup. I actually do Valerie’s face. She’s astonished at the amount of makeup I’ve accumulated.

“You might need dresses, but your makeup kit is the bomb dot com,” she exclaims.

“Thanks but you need to shut up now so I don’t get lipstick on your teeth.” I wave the lipstick brush at her threateningly and she closes her mouth obediently.

Once we’re ready, we wait around for the Royals to leave. There’s a general slamming of doors and scuffling of feet in the hall. At least one set stops at my door.

There’s a deafening bang that makes me wince, followed by Easton’s voice. “You okay in there? We’ll be home earlyish.”

“Don’t care,” I call back, pretending to be pissed. “And don’t knock on my door again. I’m mad at you. All of you.”

“Even Reed?” Easton jokes.

“All of you.”

“Ah come on, sis, this is for your own good.”

Suddenly I don’t have to fake my anger. “You Royals wouldn’t know what was good for me if it was shoved in your face by a Playboy Bunny.”

Valerie gives me two thumbs up in encouragement.

Easton heaves a big put-upon sigh. “Of course I wouldn’t be able to see anything if a Playboy Bunny was in front of me. I’d be too busy ogling her tits to pay attention to anything else.”

Valerie can’t stop herself from laughing.

“Don’t,” I hiss. “You’ll only encourage him.”

“I hear you and yes, I am encouraged,” Easton calls out from behind the door. “We’ll be home in a couple of hours. Wait up and we’ll all watch a movie.”

“Go away, Easton.”

He shuffles off.

“Easton’s adorable. If I wasn’t so in love with Tam, I’d pursue Easton hard,” Valerie admits.

“I don’t think catching him is the problem,” I reply dryly.

“No? Then what is?”

“Keeping him.”

27

Carrying our shoes, Valerie and I walk down the shoreline toward the Worthington place. “What stops people from crashing the party?” I ask curiously. “Can’t anyone just walk down this beach and then up into the house?”

“They’d know you didn’t belong just by the clothes you were wearing. Plus, the only people who have access to this beach live on it, and unless you can afford a ten million dollar pad, you won’t be on this sand.”

“Will we be turned away?” The thought hadn’t even occurred to me because I’ve never encountered parties like this before.

“Nope, because you’re Ella Royal and even though I’m a poor relation, my last name is still Carrington.”

We don’t even get far enough in to be confronted by Brent Worthington, because the five Royal brothers are clustered together at the edge of the property. They’re cooking something up, just like I knew they would. And it’s definitely a scheme to get back at Daniel, because who else could they be targeting?

If anyone deserves to get revenge, it’s me. I stomp right up to their group and they don’t even notice.

“Hey big bro, what’s going on?” I poke Gideon in the back.

Reed swivels around and chastises me first. “What are you doing here? I told you to stay home.”

“So did I.” Gideon looks down at me with a tight-lipped frown.

“Me, too.” Easton tosses in his two cents.

“And you two?” I look pointedly at the twins, both of whom are dressed in identical khaki shorts and white polo shirts with an alligator over their left pec. They blink innocently at me. There’s no way to tell them apart tonight, which might be exactly what their girlfriend enjoys. I’m going to have to mark one with lipstick before the night is over. “Well, newsflash, I’m not a dog. I don’t just sit and stay because you order me to. Why was I supposed to stay away anyway? Are the drinks drugged here, too?”

Behind me, Valerie gasps, which sends five annoyed glares in my direction.

“No,” Gideon says, “but if something bad goes down, Dad wouldn’t be as angry if you were home and tucked in your bed.”

“Or making out with Valerie,” Easton pipes up. “But in bed and at home were the important things,” he adds hastily when it’s his turn to get a number of condemning stares.

“You being here might tip off Daniel that we’re planning something,” Reed says, his scowl deepening.

Valerie steps to my side. “If the plan was to not be suspicious, then Easton should have his tongue in someone’s mouth, Reed should be whispering sweet nothings to Abby”—gag me—“Gideon should be doing college stuff and you two,” she waggles a finger between the twins, “should be pranking people because damn if I can tell you apart.”

Easton covers a laugh with a fake cough while the twins pretend to be looking anywhere but at Valerie. Reed and Gideon exchange a long look. When it comes to the Royal brothers, these two are in charge. At least for tonight.

“Since you’re here, there’s no point in making you go home, but this is Royal business.” Gideon gives Valerie a pointed look.

She’s quick. “Suddenly I feel very thirsty. I think I’ll go shake down the hosts for a glass of champagne.”

After Val leaves, I rub my hands together. “So what’s the plan?”

“Reed is going to start a fight and beat the ever loving shit of out Daniel,” Easton informs me.

“That’s a terrible plan.”

They all turn to me again. Being the single focus of five Royals is kind of overwhelming.

I focus on Reed and Gideon, the two that I need to convince. “You think you’re just going to goad Daniel into a fight?” Both brothers shrug. “And I’m sure you think it’s going to work because all of you would fight to defend your name. But this guy has no honor. He’s not a fair fighter. He’s the type of guy who drugs a girl because he wasn’t confident or patient enough to win her over. He’s a coward.” I wave a hand over Reed’s insanely ripped body. “Reed has twenty pounds on him and fights regularly.”

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