Paper Princess Page 74

“Of course.” I hug her, but in the back of my mind, doubt has crept in.

A few minutes later, we step out of my bedroom in our teeny dresses, high heels, and big hair. Easton is leaving his room at the same time and lets out a long whistle. “Where are you two going?”

“Moonglow. They’re having another rave,” I explain.

He quirks an eyebrow. “You tell Reed about this?”

“No. Should I?” I hadn’t seen Reed since this morning.

“All right. See you later,” Easton says and jogs down the stairs.

“Later where?” I yell after him.

“Where do you think?” He snorts. “I tell Reed you’re wearing a Band-Aid and cage dancing and you’re going to have one hot-headed Royal on your hands.”

“So I guess that’s a yes that Reed and Easton will be there tonight,” Valerie surmises.

I don’t make any attempt to hide my satisfied smile.

* * *

Valerie and I are escorted to the cages almost before we can clear the entrance. I guess they remember us. We put on a show for two songs until I hear my name being called. I look down through the bars and see Easton with his hands cupped around his mouth yelling my name.

When he catches my attention, he points toward the bar. I follow the line of his arm to Reed, who’s leaning against the bar top in virtually the same pose as that first night Valerie and I danced here. Only this time he doesn’t disappear.

He waits.

He waits for me to climb down from the cage.

He waits for me to walk all the way across the room.

He waits for me to reach him.

And all the while his blazing eyes track each step that brings me closer.

I halt a hand’s width away. “What are you thinking about?” I ask huskily.

He looks pointedly at my chest and then the length of my legs exposed by the short, tight black skirt. “You know exactly what I’m thinking about.” He inhales deeply. “But since we’re in public, I can only think about it”

I lift a hand to his shoulder, and this guy who doesn’t like public displays of affection takes it and brings it to his mouth. His hot breath gusts against my palm and then, with a hard jerk, he brings me flush against him.

“You’re driving half the guys in here crazy,” he growls against my hair.

“Only half?” I joke.

“The other half are in love with Easton,” he informs me. He dips his hand underneath my hair and runs it all the way down to the small of my back. A small tug brings me sharply between his legs. We both suck in a breath when we make contact.

“Wanna dance,” I manage to croak out.

He tosses back whatever he’s drinking, slams the empty glass on the bar, and takes my hand. “Let’s go.”

On the dance floor, we press tight against each other. One of his strong thighs finds its way between my legs and he bends his knees so that I’m virtually riding him. Then he runs his fingers across the newly exposed skin at the backs of my thighs.

I twine my arms around his neck and hang on, trusting him.

“I almost exploded in my pants watching you dance,” he rasps in my ear.

“Yeah? You like watching Val and I dance together?” I tease. Every guy’s fantasy, I think.

“There was someone else up there with you?” He smooths a hand over my hair. “I only saw you.”

I nearly melt into a puddle of goo. “Keep talking like that and you might get lucky.”

His breath hitches and his fingers tighten against my flesh. “You want to get out of here?”

Heated, anxious, totally desperate for him, I nod helplessly.

“Let me find Easton and let him know we’re taking off.” He squeezes my hand and leans forward to brush his lips against my temple. That innocent kiss lights me up.

“I’m going to the bar to get a glass of water.” I’m beyond parched.

“Okay, I’ll be back in a sec.”

Reed is swallowed up by the crowd while I move in the opposite direction and attempt to flag down a bartender. Val is still up in the cages, dancing her pretty booty off.

A cute guy with floppy brown hair stands in front of me. He’s wearing a button-down shirt rolled and cuffed over a pair of plaid shorts. He looks vaguely familiar and I wonder if he goes to Astor Park.

“Ella Royal, right?” he asks.

I’ve given up on trying to get anyone to call me by my actual last name. I hold a tenner between my fingers and one of the bartenders acknowledges me with a tip of his chin. “Water,” I mouth. The girl nods and I stuff the tip into the jar. It’s a lot of money for water, but I’m thirsty and I figure it’s the fastest way to get served. “Yeah, I’m Ella. Are you from Astor Park?”

“Scott Gastonburg.” He leans an elbow on the counter. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.” I take the glass from the bartender and yell my thanks.

“I’m just wondering whether you started with the twins and are moving up the Royal age ladder, or are you just jumping around?”

I jerk around so fast the water spills all over my hand. “Screw you.”

He holds out his hands. “I’m more than willing, baby, but my last name’s not Royal.”

I resist the urge to throw the entire contents of the glass in this asswipe’s face. “Go to hell.” I slam the glass on the bar top, then turn around and bump into Reed.

He takes one look at my face, then at Plaid Shorts’ insolent expression, and immediately sizes up what’s going on.

His eyes narrow and he shoves me behind him. “What’d you say to her?” he demands.

“It’s nothing.” I tug on Reed’s arm. “Nothing. Let’s just go.”

Scott either lacks any self-preservation instincts or has a lot of liquid courage, because he grins and says, “Ellie here just offered to screw me but I reminded her I wasn’t a Royal. I’m not even a cousin, but hey, I’m willing to take her off your hands once she’s done with you guys.”

Reed’s fist flies out so fast I don’t have a chance to react. By the time I realize what’s going on, Scott is on the ground and Reed is pounding on him. Even over the heavy bass, I can hear the crack of knuckles against bone.

“Reed! Reed! Come on!” I yell and pull at his shoulders, but he’s too focused on rearranging all of Scott’s features. Others try to help me, although I think some of them are actively cheering on the fight.

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