Paper Princess Page 54

That bitterness Easton had mentioned is now painfully obvious. It’s in the tight set of her jaw, the harshness of her words.

“I get that you don’t like them,” I say softly. “I heard about you and Gideon—”

She interrupts again, her green eyes burning with disgust. “You know what? I changed my mind. You and Daniel are perfect for each other. Have a great night, Ella.”

With that, Savannah throws the wet towel at me and it strikes me across the face, soaking the front of my T-shirt. Bewildered, I hang the towel up and pluck the wet fabric away from my chest. What the hell just happened?

Daniel is waiting outside the bathroom, concern etched into his face. “What’s wrong? You and Savannah get into it?”

“Not exactly. I don’t know what happened back there other than she got mad and soaked my shirt.” I point to the wet Astor Park T-shirt I borrowed from one of the twins and tied in the back to make it fit.

“Do you need another shirt? I can grab one from Farris’ room.” He points upward.

“No, that’s okay. It’ll dry.” I flap the fabric. It’s thin enough that it should dry fairly quickly.

He nods. “Look, I don’t want to say anything bad about her, but Sav isn’t a real happy person these days. Don’t let it rub off on you.”

“Yeah, I get that.”

“They’re setting up a dart game in the other room. You interested?”

“Sure, why not.”

He hands me a water bottle. “Don’t know if you want this since you’re already soaked, but I thought you might like it. Those drinks Farris mixes are potent.”

“Thanks.” I twist the bottle open, noting that the seal hadn’t been broken. Daniel clearly falls in the good guy category, and I’d be really stupid not to at least give him a chance.

His arm bumps against my shoulder as we walk down the hall.

“You know, Daniel…” I take a breath. “I think we should go out.”

“Yeah?” He beams.


“All right then.” He pulls me to his side and kisses me on the temple in another nice, reassuring move. “But first, let’s go kick some ass in darts.”

The dartboard is a bar-sized thing in the pool house at the back of the Farris property. The sight of two other girls already lounging on a leather sectional eases my mind that Daniel hadn’t immediately assumed my agreement for one date meant I’m ready to get down.

“This is Zoe and Nadine. They’re from town.”

Zoe lifts a limp wrist. “We go to South East High.”

“Didn’t we just play your team tonight?”

“Yup,” she confirms. “And now we’re celebrating.”

I have to laugh. “But you lost.”

“Then I guess we’re getting consoled.” She and Nadine giggle again.

“Good thing we have Hugh here.”

Hugh is a wiry guy, a few inches taller than me, who takes a drag of whatever it is he’s smoking and merely nods.

Daniel winks at the girls. “Well, Ella and I have a date with the dartboard. You three want to join us?”

“Nope. We’ll just watch. Hugh likes watching, don’t you, Hugh?”

Hugh blows smoke in their faces, which makes them laugh even harder. Not hard to guess these girls are drunk or stoned.

“You want red or yellow?” Daniel holds up two darts.


He hands me the red darts, then pulls me over to the dartboard. Before I can throw mine, I feel a prick in my upper arm.

“Ouch!” I slap my hand over my arm. “What was that?”

He holds up his yellow dart, looking sheepish. “I poked you with my dart.”

“Jeez, Daniel, that hurt. Not even funny.” I rub the sore spot.

He frowns at the point of his dart. “I’m sorry. I must have pricked you too hard.”

I force myself to relax. “Just…don’t do it again, okay?”

He draws me into his arms. “It won’t happen again.”

I let him hold me for a minute because the contact feels really good. When he releases me, I have to catch myself on a nearby table. My balance is off. I must be still experiencing the effects of the drink. We play one round and then another. My aim is terrible and I hit the wall more than I hit the dartboard. Daniel makes a few jokes about how he hopes I never have to compete in the Hunger Games.

By the third round, my mouth is strangely dry. I reach for my water bottle, but my hand misses and knocks it over. “Oh crap. Sorry.”

I hear the girls giggle behind me. I fall to my knees and look for something to mop up the floor with. My shirt. My shirt is absorbent and already wet. Besides, the fabric is really bothering me. Actually, all of my clothes are starting to irritate me. My bra feels too tight and the elastic of my underwear is digging into my skin. The threads of the hem of my skirt scratch my thighs every time I move. I should take off my clothes.

“That’s a good idea,” Daniel agrees.

I must have said that out loud. “My clothes are bothering me,” I confess.

“Yes, let’s take off our clothes!” one of the girl shouts from the sofa. I hear a rustling of fabric and then more giggles.

“My head is stuck,” one of them chirps.

“Why don’t you two help each other out?” Hugh suggests.

I push to my feet, bracing myself against Daniel’s shoulder. Zoe tugs Nadine’s top off and throws it at Hugh. He drops it to the floor and strolls over to the sofa.

“I should go,” I tell Daniel. I have a good idea what’s going to happen between the three of them, and I don’t really care to watch.

Daniel tugs me against his body again, wrapping an arm around my waist. His physical response to the scene unfolding in front of me is unmistakable.

“Where’s Reed?” I turn abruptly. The tingling between my legs makes me think of him. “I need him.”

“No you don’t. You’ve got me.” Daniel grinds himself slowly against me.

“No.” I jerk out of his grasp. “I’m sorry, Daniel. I don’t think…I’m not…” I raise a hand to my head and shakily push it through my hair. Need is pulsing through my blood. I can hear my heartbeat, loud and fast, in my ears. I force myself to concentrate. “I need Reed.”

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