Paper Princess Page 36

“Great,” I lie, hopping off the stool. I avoid Brooke’s amused eyes. “Have fun at dinner. I’ve got homework to finish.”

I dart out of the kitchen before Callum realizes I didn’t go to the football game like he wanted.

I head back to my princess room and spend the next two hours tackling boring math equations, and it’s a little past eleven when my door swings open and Easton strides inside without knocking.

I jump in surprise. “Why the hell didn’t you knock?”

“We’re family. Family doesn’t knock.” His dark hair is wet as if he’s showered recently, and he’s wearing sweats, a tight T-shirt, and a surly expression. In his right hand is a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.

“What do you want?” I demand.

“You weren’t at the game.”


“Reed told you to be there.”

“So?” I say again.

Easton frowns. He takes a step toward me. “So you have to keep up appearances. Dad wants you involved in shit. He’ll stay off our backs as long as you play along.”

“I don’t like games. You and your brothers don’t want to be around me. I don’t want be around you. Why pretend otherwise?”

“Naah, you want to be around us.” He moves even closer and brings his mouth to my ear. His breath brushes my neck, but I don’t smell alcohol on it. I don’t think he’s dipped into the bottle yet. “And maybe I want to be around you.”

I narrow my eyes. “Why are you in my room, Easton?”

“Because I’m bored and you’re the only one home.” He flops down on my bed and lies back on his elbows, the whiskey bottle tucked at his side.

“Valerie said there’s a post-game party. You could’ve gone to that.”

Grimacing, he lifts his shirt, revealing a nasty looking bruise on his side. “I took a beating on the field. Don’t feel like going out.”

Suspicion rolls through me. “Where’s Reed?”

“At the party. Twins, too.” He shrugs. “Like I said, it’s just you and me.”

“I’m about to go to bed.”

His eyes linger on my bare legs, and I know he also doesn’t miss the way my threadbare shirt clings to my chest. Rather than comment, he slides up the bed and rests his head on my pillows.

I grit my teeth as he grabs the remote from the side table, flicks on the TV, and changes it to ESPN.

“Get out,” I order. “I want to go to sleep.”

“It’s too early for bedtime. Stop being a little bitch and sit down.” Surprisingly, there’s no malice in his tone. Just humor.

But I’m still suspicious. I sit down as far away from him as possible without falling off the mattress.

With a grin, Easton glances around my pink bedroom and says, “My dad is a clueless fucker, huh?”

I can’t help but return the grin. “I guess he’s not used to raising girls.”

“Not used to raising boys either,” Easton mutters under his breath.

“Aw, is this where you tell me all about your daddy issues? Daddy wasn’t home, Daddy ignored me, Daddy didn’t love me.”

He rolls his eyes again and ignores the taunt. “My brother’s pissed at you,” he says instead.

“Your brother is always pissed about something.”

Easton doesn’t respond. He raises the bottle to his lips.

My curiosity gets the better of me. “Fine, I’ll bite. Why’s he pissed?”

“Because you threw down with Jordan today.”

“She had it coming.”

He takes another sip. “Yeah, she did.”

My eyebrows shoot up. “What, no lecture? No ‘you’re tarnishing the Royal name, Ella. You’re a disappointment to us all.’”

His lips quirk. “Naah.” Another grin surfaces, impish this time. “That was the hottest thing I’ve seen in a long time. The two of you rolling around on the floor like that….damn. You gave me enough material to feed the spank bank for years.”

“Gross. I don’t want to hear about your spank bank.”

“Sure you do.” One more sip, and then he holds out the Jack’s. “Drink.”

“No thanks.”

“For fuck’s sake, stop being so difficult all the time. Live a little.” He shoves the bottle in my hand. “Drink.”

I drink.

I’m not sure why. Maybe I do it because I want the buzz. Maybe I do it because this is the first time any Royal other than Callum has been somewhat nice to me since I moved in.

Easton’s eyes shine with approval as I take a deep swig. He runs a hand through his hair, then winces at the movement. I feel sorry for him. That’s a heck of a bruise.

We sit in silence for a while, passing the bottle back and forth. I stop drinking the moment I feel buzzed, and he pokes me in the side, even as his gaze stays glued to the TV.

“You’re not drinking enough.”

“I don’t want any more.” I lean back on the headboard and close my eyes. “I don’t like being drunk. I stop at tipsy.”

“Have you ever even been drunk?” he challenges.

“Yes. Have you?”

“Never,” he says innocently.

I snort. “Uh-huh. You were probably an alcoholic at the age of ten.” The moment the words leave my mouth, I let out a sigh.

“What?” He watches me curiously. He’s a lot more attractive when he’s not scowling or smirking.

“Nothing. Just a stupid memory.” I should change the subject—talking about my past is something I usually avoid—but the memory has taken root, and I can’t help but laugh now. “It’s kind of messed up, actually.”

“Well, now I’m intrigued.”

“I was ten the first time I got drunk,” I confess.

He grins. “For real?”

“Yeah. My mom was dating this guy. Leo.” Who had mob ties, but I don’t share that with Easton. “We were living in Chicago at the time, and he took us to a Cubs game one weekend. He was drinking beer, and I kept begging to try a sip. My mom was all, no way in hell, but Leo convinced her that one sip wouldn’t hurt.”

I close my eyes, transported back to that warm June day. “So I tried it, and it tasted awful. Leo thought the face I made when I drank it was hilarious, so every time Mom turned her back, he’d pass me the bottle and then piss his pants laughing at my expression. I couldn’t have drunk more than a quarter of that bottle, but I got wasted.”

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