Paper Princess Page 19

“Brace yourself,” she warns. “The claws might come out.”

The claws in question belong to a gorgeous brunette in a silky green dress that barely covers her thighs. She’s draped on a plush lounge chair like she’s Cleopatra or some shit. Her friends take up similar poses, each one in similarly skimpy dresses.

The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and I turn my head to find Reed and Easton sliding through the French doors. Reed’s eyes lock with mine. His tongue comes out briefly to moisten his bottom lip, and my heart does an irritating flip. I hate this guy. He’s too attractive for his own good.

“Jordan,” Valerie greets her cousin. “Awesome party, as always.”

The brunette smirks. “I’m surprised to see you out and about, Val. Don’t you usually like to cower in the attic?”

“I decided to live on the edge tonight.”

Jordan studies her cousin’s flushed cheeks. “I see you have. Drunk much?”

Valerie rolls her eyes, then tugs me forward. “This is Ella. Ella, Jordan.” She points a finger at each of the other girls and rattles off names. “Shea, Rachel, Abby.”

Only one of the friends spares me a look—Shea. “You met my sister earlier,” she says coolly. “Savannah.”

I nod. “Yeah. Cool chick.”

Shea narrows her eyes. I think she’s trying to figure out if I’m being sarcastic or not.

Jordan speaks up, her almond-brown eyes gleaming. “So. Ella. Callum Royal is your new daddy, huh?”

I notice the entire backyard has grown silent. Even the music pouring out of the living room seems to have quieted. I feel everyone’s eyes on us. No, on Jordan. Her friends’ expressions are almost gleeful.

I brace myself for an attack, because obviously that’s where this is leading.

Jordan sits up and crosses her long legs seductively. “What’s it like, sucking old man cock?” she asks.

Someone snorts. A few titters tickle my back.

My throat tightens with embarrassment. These people are laughing at me. I realize the Royals had gotten to their friends, probably long before I showed up. Nobody here ever planned on giving me a real chance.

I’m horrified to feel tears stinging my eyes. No. Screw that. Screw Jordan and screw all of them. I might not come from a family who “deals in hotels,” but I’m better than this bitch. I’ve survived more than she ever could.

I blink, pasting on an indifferent expression. “Your dad’s not bad, if that’s what you’re asking, but I find it super creepy that he wants to pull my hair and have me call him Daddy. Is everything okay at home?”

Valerie snickers.

A shocked gasp comes from one of Jordan’s friends.

Jordan’s eyes blaze for one brief moment before the mocking glint returns and she lets out a husky laugh.

“You were right,” she calls out to someone behind me. “She’s trash.”

I don’t need to turn around to know she’s talking to Reed.

Beside me, Valerie’s features tighten. “You’re a real bitch, you know that?” she tells her cousin.

“Better a bitch than a casual,” Jordan answers with a grin. Then she waves a hand at us. “Get out of my sight. I’m trying to enjoy my party.”

We’ve been dismissed. Valerie turns on her heel and I follow, but when we reach the doors, I veer away from her and march up to Reed.

His blue eyes reveal nothing, but his jaw twitches slightly when he sees me.

“There. I’ve done my Royal duty,” I mutter to him. “Come find me when it’s time to go.”

I brush past him without looking back.

* * *

It’s after one a.m. when we leave the party. Easton finds me in Valerie’s room upstairs, the two of us sprawled on her bed watching So You Think You Can Dance. Valerie downloaded an entire season and forced me to watch a bunch of episodes, insisting I need to try out for the show. I declined yet again.

Easton announces we’re leaving, then stands there rolling his eyes while I hug Valerie goodbye and tell her she’d better find me at school on Monday.

Outside, I realize Gideon and the twins already left in one of the Range Rovers, which means I’m stuck riding back with Easton and Reed. Reed gets behind the wheel, his brother slides in the passenger seat, and I sit in the back while they carry on a whole conversation like I’m not even there.

“We’re gonna crush Wyatt Prep,” Easton is saying. “Half their O-line graduated last year, so it’s pretty much a straight path to Donovan.”

Reed grunts in agreement.

“Then we’re looking at Devlin High—easy fuckin’ peasy. Their QB’s hung-over half the time, and that butterfingers receiver corps of theirs is a joke.” Easton babbles away, his voice animated, his shoulders free of the tension I’m used to seeing. Either he’s drunk, or he’s finally starting to accept my presence in his life.

I try to join the conversation. “What positions do you guys play?”

Just like that, his shoulders are stiff again.

“Linebacker,” Reed says without turning around.

“Defensive end,” Easton mutters.

They go back to ignoring me. Easton is now telling his brother about the blowjob he got tonight.

“It’s like she’s only giving forty percent now,” he gripes. “Used to be a solid hundred, y’know? Going to town on my dick like it’s made of chocolate, and suddenly it’s a few licks and then let’s cuddle? Eff that.”

Reed snickers. “She thinks she’s your girlfriend. Girlfriends don’t need to put in an effort.”

“Yeah, might be time to cut that one loose.”

“You guys are pigs,” I say from the backseat.

Easton twists around, his blue eyes mocking me. “Well, aren’t we all high and mighty, Ms. Sex Worker.”

I grit my teeth. “I’m not a sex worker.”

“Hmmm.” He turns back in his seat.

“I’m not.” A helpless feeling lodges in my throat. “You know what? Screw you both. You don’t know me.”

“We know everything we need to know,” Reed says.

“You know shit.” I bite my lip and focus my gaze out the window.

We’re only about halfway to the Royal mansion when Reed abruptly stops the car on the side of the road. I meet his eyes in the rearview mirror, but his face has zero expression as he snaps, “Last stop. Get out.”

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