Paper Princess Page 78

Dinah’s lawyer speaks up reassuringly. “We’ll get a sample of comparison from Miss Harper before we leave. I can supervise the process.”

The adults keep talking and bickering among themselves, while I sit there in stunned silence. My mind keeps tripping over the words “hundreds of millions.” It’s more money than I could have ever dreamed of, and a part of me feels guilty for inheriting it. I didn’t know Steve. I don’t deserve half of his money.

Callum notices my stricken face and squeezes my hand, while Brooke’s lips curl in distaste. I ignore the waves of hostility rolling toward me and concentrate on drawing air in and out of my lungs.

I didn’t know Steve. He didn’t know me. But as I sit here battling my shock, I suddenly realize that he loved me. Or at least, he’d wanted to love me.

And my heart aches that I never got the chance to love him back.

34

Hours after the will reading, I’m still numb. Still shocked. Still sad. I don’t know what to do with the ball of pain in my stomach, so I just curl up on my bed and let my mind go blank.

I don’t let myself think about Steve O’Halloran and how I’ll never, ever know him. Really know him.

I don’t think about Dinah’s threats as Callum and I were leaving the law office, or the angry words Brooke hurled at Callum when he refused to take her dinner so they could “talk.” I guess she wants him back. I’m not surprised.

Eventually Reed walks into my room. He locks the door, then joins me on the bed and pulls me into his arms.

“Dad said to give you space. So I gave you two hours. But that’s over now. Talk to me, babe.”

I bury my face in his neck. “I don’t feel like talking.”

“What happened with the lawyers? Dad wouldn’t say anything.”

He’s determined to make me talk, dammit. Groaning, I sit up and meet his concerned eyes. “I’m a multi-millionaire,” I blurt out. “Not just a regular old millionaire, but a multi-millionaire. I’m freaking out right now.”

His lips twitch.

“I’m serious! What the hell am I going to do with that kind of money?” I wail.

“Invest it. Give it to charity. Spend it.” Reed pulls me toward him again. “You can do whatever you want.”

“I…don’t deserve it.” The meek response slips out before I can stop it, and the next thing I know, all my emotions rush to the surface. I tell him about the will reading, and Dinah’s reaction, and my realization that Steve actually considered me his daughter even though he never knew me.

Reed doesn’t comment, not once during my long-winded speech, and I realize that’s what I wanted from him. I don’t need advice or reassurances, I just need someone to listen.

When I finally go quiet, he does something even better—he kisses me, long and deep, and the strength of his body pressed against mine eases the anxiety in my chest.

His lips travel along my neck, the line of my jaw, my cheeks. Every kiss makes me fall harder and harder for him. It’s a terrifying feeling, and it lodges in my throat and triggers the urge to run. I’ve never loved anyone before. I loved my mom, but it’s not the same thing. What I’m feeling right now is…all-consuming. It’s hot and achy and powerful and it’s everywhere, overflowing in my heart, pulsing through my blood.

Reed Royal is inside me. Figuratively, but oh God, I need it to be literally, too. I need him and I’m going to have him, and my hands are frantic as they claw at his zipper.

“Ella,” he groans, intercepting my hands. “No.”

“Yes,” I whisper into his lips. “I want this.”

“Callum’s home.”

The reminder is like a splash of cold water to the face. His dad could knock on my door at any second, and probably will, because I know Callum sensed how upset I was when we got home.

I curse in frustration. “You’re right. We can’t.”

Reed kisses me again, just the soft brush of his lips before he slides off the bed. “Are you gonna be okay? Easton and I were supposed to go out for beers with some of the guys from the team tonight, but I can cancel if you need me to stick around.”

“No, it’s fine. Go. I’m still digesting this money thing and I probably won’t be good company tonight.”

“I’ll be back in a couple hours,” he promises. “We can watch a movie or something if you’re still up.”

After he’s gone, I curl up again and end up falling asleep for two hours, which is totally going to mess up my sleep schedule. I wake up when my cell phone rings, and I’m startled to see Gideon’s number on the screen. I have all the brothers’ numbers, but this is the first time Gideon has ever called me.

I answer the phone, still a bit groggy. “Hey. What’s up?”

“You home?” is his terse reply.

I’m on guard almost immediately. It’s just two words, but I hear something in his voice that scares me. He’s angry.

“Yeah, why?”

“I’m five minutes away—”

He is? On a Monday? Gideon never comes home from college during the week.

“Can we go for a drive? I need to talk to you.”

My brows knit together. “Why can’t we talk here?”

“Because I don’t want anyone overhearing us.”

I sit up in bed, but I’m still not comfortable with his request. Not that I think he’s going to murder me on the side of the road or anything, but asking me to go for a drive is strange, especially for Gideon.

“It’s about Savannah, okay?” he mutters. “And I want it to stay between you and me.”

I relax slightly. But the confusion lingers. This is the first time Gideon has mentioned Savannah to me. I only know about their history because of Easton. Still, I can’t deny I’m insanely curious about it.

“I’ll meet you outside,” I tell him.

His huge SUV waits in the driveway when I descend the front steps. I hop into the passenger seat and Gideon drives off without a word. His profile is like stone and his shoulders rigid. And he doesn’t say a single word until he pulls into a small plaza five minutes later and kills the engine.

“Are you having sex with Reed?”

My mouth falls open, and my heart starts pounding, because the furious look in his eyes is unexpected.

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