Paper Princess Page 68


I wonder if that’s the reason Gideon keeps coming back.

“Did you save some of that egg thing for me?” Reed’s voice makes me jump.

I slap a hand over my heart to keep it from leaping out of my chest. “You scared me. I thought you left with Easton.”

“Nope.” He crosses the room to peer over my shoulder. “What else is in the fridge?”

“Food,” I answer.

He tugs on my hair playfully—at least I hope it’s playfully—and goes to investigate his options.

Door in one hand, he stands in front of the fridge—leans, really, with the other hand braced on the cabinet—until the entire room is cold with refrigerated air.

“Problem?” I take a break from eating so I can admire the sexy line of his body and the way his muscles bunch and flex as he rummages for food.

“Don’t suppose you’d make me a sandwich?” he says from somewhere in the interior of the refrigerator.

“That’d be a no.”

He slams the door shut and joins me at the table, ripping the plate and fork from underneath my nose and then shoveling half the quiche down his throat before I can even protest.

“That was mine!” I reach over and try to wrest it back

“Sandra would want you to share with me.” He holds me off with one hand…again.

Damn. I need to start a weightlifting program. I try one more time to grab the plate back, and this time Reed doesn’t fend me off. He pulls me in and the surprise move makes me lose my balance. I end up tumbling into his lap with my legs splayed on either side of his broad thighs.

My attempts to wriggle free are put to an end when he clamps one hand around my butt and pulls me against him. When he kisses me, I can’t help but respond eagerly, wanting him to make those husky noises that tell me how hot I get him.

“You left this morning,” I say when he releases my mouth. I wish I could stuff the words back in, because I’m afraid he’s going to say something hurtful.

“Didn’t want to,” he replies.

“Why’d you leave?” All my pride is left on the floor, but my weakness doesn’t turn him off.

He runs his fingers through my hair. “Because I’m weak when it comes to you. I don’t trust myself to be in your bed all night. Hell, I should be thrown in jail for half the things I just think about.”

His words fill me with giddy pleasure. “You think too much.”

He makes some indecipherable noise—impatience, cynicism, humor—and then kisses me again. Soon the kissing isn’t enough. I reach down to tug at the bottom of his shirt. His hands are all over me too—inside my T-shirt, down the elastic waistband of my shorts. I strain toward him, seeking the release I’ve discovered only Reed can provide.

A scuffling noise outside the kitchen breaks us apart.

“Did you hear something?” I whisper.

Reed stands up in one smooth and powerful gesture, still holding me in his arms, and walks out into the hall. It’s empty.

Setting me on my feet, he gives my butt a little smack. “Why don’t you go put a swimsuit on?”

“Um, why would I want to do that?” I just want to go back to the table and sit on his lap while he kisses me senseless, but he’s already moving outside.

“Because we’re going for a swim,” he calls over his shoulder.

With a sigh, I trudge upstairs. When I reach the top, I see Brooke coming out of my room. Or, at least, that’s what it looks like.

I halt in my tracks, anger and suspicion forming a tight pretzel in my gut. What the hell was she doing in my bedroom?

Oh shit! My money is in there.

What if she took it?

I scan her quickly but she doesn’t have a purse and her clothes are so tight that there’s no way she can hide a stack of cash on her. Still, she doesn’t belong here, and I make my displeasure known as I march toward her.

“What are you doing here?” I demand.

She saunters my way. “Well, if it isn’t little orphaned Ella, the new princess of Castle Royal.”

“I thought you told Callum you were leaving and never coming back,” I say warily.

“Don’t you wish.” She sneers and flicks her long blonde hair to one side. Whatever warm feelings she may have had for me are long gone.

There’s no point in engaging, so I sidestep her and move in front of my bedroom door. “Stay out of my room. I’m serious, Brooke. If I catch you up here again, I’m telling Callum.”

“Right. Callum. Your savior. The man who swept you out of the gutter and brought you to his palace.” Bitterness fills her eyes. “He did the same thing for me. He saved me too, remember? But guess what, sweetie—we’re disposable. We’re all fucking disposable to him.” She waves a perfectly manicured finger in my face. “Your life is transformed, isn’t it? Like some princess out of a fairytale. But fairytales aren’t real. Girls like us, we’ll always turn back into a pumpkin after the ball.”

I notice that her eyes have started to glisten with unshed tears. “Brooke,” I say gently. “Let me call you a cab, okay?” My heart softens toward her. She’s hurting and needs help. I don’t know what I can do for her, though, other than a safe ride home.

“He’ll tire of you, too,” Brooke continues as if I hadn’t even spoken. My response doesn’t matter. She just needs an audience. “Mark my words.”

“Thanks for your insight,” I say dryly. “But I think it’s time for you to go.”

I try to steer her toward the stairs, but she flinches away, stumbling against the opposite wall. A peal of maniacal laughter tumbles from her cherry red lips. “I’ve had the Royals in my palm for a lot longer than you have, honey.”

I’m done listening to her. She just wants to whine and bad-mouth the Royals. My patience evaporates, so I just duck into my room, slam the door shut, and run to the bathroom. With a shaking hand, I feel inside the cabinet. When my hand brushes across the taped wad of bills, I sag with relief.

I need to move my cash to somewhere only I have access. ASAP.

* * *

“What’s wrong?” Reed asks the moment I step onto the patio.

I can’t answer him immediately because my tongue is attached to the roof of my mouth. I don’t know how I’m supposed to function when Reed stands there in only a pair of board shorts that look like they’re about to drop off his hips. His chest is a wall of lickable muscle, and it’s hard to concentrate. My argument with Brooke fades in importance when the hottest guy on the planet is standing there on display for me.

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