Paper Princess Page 72

“Sure we will.” Smirking, Reed lifts me up and drops me between his legs, pulling me snug against his chest.

Easton arrives moments later, taking my abandoned spot. He doesn’t even blink at the cozy position he finds us in. Reed places the popcorn bowl between us and flicks on the television.

“Where are the twins?” I ask. My bed feels crowded with two giant Royals on it, but add the twins and it would be like stuffing double D’s into an A-cup bra.

“They’re going over to Lauren’s house,” Easton answers before shoving a handful of popcorn in his mouth.

“Both of them?”

“Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to,” Reed hints and I promptly shut up.

Even if I had more questions, I don’t think I’d be able to get any answers. Once the game is on, it’s like I’m not even there. Reed and Easton cheer, groan and high-five each other. I spend my time admiring all the tight asses on the screen and smirking at all the innuendo-laden commentary, like how the one guy with the ball really needs to jam the hole and how the other team isn’t getting enough penetration in the backfield.

Neither of the guys appreciate my observations. I settle in between Reed’s legs and just enjoy the company. Occasionally, Reed reaches over and rubs my back or runs his hands through my hair. They’re careless, offhand gestures as if we’ve been a couple for years, and I drink it up like a thirsty kitten. There are way worse ways to spend my night, I muse.

The score is pretty lopsided and somewhere along the line I doze off, full of popcorn and bored by the game. I wake up to the sound of Easton’s phone blowing up. He leaves to answer it and Reed stretches out beside me like my own personal heater.

“Who was that?” I mumble, feeling groggy.

“Who knows. Were you sleeping?”

“No, just resting my eyes. What’s going on with the game?”

“The Lions are killing the Titans.”

“Are those real team names or are you just making stuff up?”

“Those are real team names.” He sounds amused. A warm finger skims across the waistband of my shorts. I stretch, feeling a newly familiar heat seep into my bones.

“Are we done watching football?” It’s more of a suggestion than a question.

Reed’s blue eyes get stormy. He climbs over me, caging me between his arms and legs. “Yeah, I think we’re done with that.”

His head descends slowly and I lick my lips in anticipation—

“—what the hell, did the Lions just score?” Easton bursts in.

Reed sighs and heaves himself off me.

“See how nice it would be if people started knocking,” I whisper as Easton grabs the remote from the bed and turns up the volume on the game.

Reed just folds his arms and grunts. We both watch as Easton begins to pace.

The team wearing blue and silver and sporting lions on their helmets is marching down the field. The opposing team with a flaming T on their helmets isn’t doing a very good job protecting its scoring area. For the next twenty minutes, the blue and navy team scores one touchdown after another until the score is tied.

Easton is beside himself. By the time the whistle blows, he’s as white as the sheer curtains hanging on the windows.

“What’s going on?” Reed demands. “How much did you put on this game?”

I inherited addiction issues from my mommy. Oh, Easton.

Easton shrugs, trying to act like it’s no big deal. “I got this, big bro.”

Reed’s jaw works as if he’s fighting not to yell at Easton. Finally, he says, “If you need anything, hit me up.”

Easton gives us a weary smile. “Yeah, of course. Gotta make a phone call now. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he says with forced cheeriness.

“Does Easton have a gambling problem?” I ask once Easton’s door closes down the hall.

Reed exhales in frustration. “Maybe? I don’t know. I think he gambles and drinks because he’s bored, not because he’s addicted. But then I’m not a psychiatrist, am I?”

I flounder for something to say, but can only come up with, “I’m sorry.”

He shrugs. “Nothing you or I can do about it.”

By the fierce set of Reed’s jaw, I can tell he doesn’t believe that for a minute.

“I’m going to bed.” Reed pushes away from the mattress.

I curl my legs underneath me, fighting the urge to beg him to stay. “Okay,” I say in a small voice.

His brows scrunch together. “I don’t think I’d be good company tonight.”

“That’s fine.” I rise from the bed and head toward the bathroom. Am I hurt that he doesn’t want to stay with me tonight? A little.

He grabs my wrist as I walk by. “I’m just worked up and…I don’t want to pressure you into anything.”

“Is this an it’s not you, it’s me speech? Because that’s the absolute worst. No one wants to hear that.”

A reluctant smile tugs at his mouth. “No. It’s a you’re too hot for your own damn good speech and I’m having a hard time, literally, keeping my hands off you.”

I round on him and poke a finger into his rock-solid chest. “Who says I want you to keep your hands to yourself?”

He grabs my finger and hauls me up against him. “You really ready, Ella? Ready for it all?”

I hesitate and that’s all the answer he needs. Dipping his head close to mine, he runs his nose along my cheek. “You aren’t and that’s okay because I can wait, but sleeping next to you is torture for me. Your body pressed up against me…and I wake up—” He breaks off but I know what he’s saying because it’s true for me, too.

I’m suddenly aching in spots I didn’t realize could ache. “We could do other stuff.” I lick my lips, thinking of the pool house.

He groans and buries his face in my neck. “There’s no rush. Seriously. We’re going to take our time and do this right.” With another deep breath, he sets me away from him and strokes a strand of hair out of my eyes. “We okay?”

There’s no point in disagreeing. I know Reed well enough that once he’s made up his mind about something, it takes a long time to change it, which means I’m spending the night alone.

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