Paper Princess Page 62

“She knows about the fighting?” Gideon interrupts. Reed gives an abrupt nod and Gideon flicks both hands at us as if he’s done with our high school asses.

“He’s still going to want to defend himself,” Reed argues.

“I bet you a hundred bucks he’ll laugh and say that he knows you’re going to win. Then if you try to push it, you’ll look like the bad guy.”

“I don’t care.”

“Fine. If all you want to do is beat him up then just go and do it.” I point to the back lawn, which is getting crowded.

“Reed can’t throw the first punch,” Easton interjects.

Puzzled, I look from one brother to another. “Is this some kind of fight club rule?”

“No. Dad caught Reed fighting a few months ago. Said if he caught him doing it again he’d ship the twins off to military school.”

Wow, that’s diabolical. I know that Reed wouldn’t care about going to military school—or at least not care that much, but he’d hate it for the twins. Callum is constantly surprising me.

“So you can’t hit anyone ever?”

“No, I can’t throw a punch unless I’m defending myself or a family member from imminent harm. Those were his exact words,” Reed says through clenched teeth. “If you have a better idea, spit it out.”

I don’t and they all know it. Gideon shakes his head and even Easton looks disappointed with me. I stare at the dark blue sky, then at the ocean, up at the house, and then back at the brothers. An idea sparks.

“Do the Worthingtons have a pool house?”

“Yeah,” Reed says warily.

“Where is it?” The Royals’ poolhouse is made almost entirely of glass so you can see the ocean from one side and the pool from the other. I tug on Reed’s arm. “Show me.”

Reed helps me up over the rocky ledge and onto the back lawn. He points to a dark structure standing just to the edge of the concrete deck around the large, rectangular pool. “Worthington keeps it locked.”

“So no one can have sex in there. Valerie told me.” This is all so perfect.

I run my eyes over the twins.

“If this involves me dressing up as a woman, I’m out.” Sawyer holds up a protesting hand. At least I think it’s Sawyer by the fading burn on his wrist.

“Let me get Valerie. It’s going to take two of us. And I’ll need both of the twins. The rest of you pretend like you’re at a party. When the time is right, Sawyer will come out and let you know. You’ll need to gather as much of the crowd as you can by the pool. Maybe get your cameras ready.”

“What do you have planned, little sis?” Easton sidles up to me.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned or a girl drugged against her will,” I say mysteriously and run off to look for Valerie.

I find her chatting up Savannah halfway between the shore and the pool, which is some kind of perfect serendipity. “Hey, can I talk to you guys for a minute?”

Valerie has to drag Savannah, but I manage to sequester the two of them off to the side.

I address Savannah first. “Look, I want to apologize for not listening to you the other night. I was lonely and wanting someone I couldn’t have, so I thought I’d hang with Daniel. That was a mistake.”

She presses her lips together, but either my genuine regret or our mutual hatred of Daniel breaks down her icy barriers. “I accept your apology,” she says stiffly.

“Oh, Sav, get the stick out of your ass,” Valerie chides. “We’re here to get Daniel back. Right, Ella?”

Savannah quirks an interested eyebrow in my direction and I nod enthusiastically. “Here’s the plan.”

After I explain the details to them, Valerie hoots. But Savannah looks skeptical.

“You really thing he’s going to fall for this?”

“Savannah, the guy drugs girls for sex. He’s not going to turn this offer down. It’s a power trip for him and we’re going to feed into that.”

She lifts an elegant shoulder. “All right. I’m in. Let’s take this jackass down.”

* * *

Daniel is sitting on a lounge chair next to the pool with a Heineken in one hand and the thigh of a young-looking girl in the other. She has to be a freshman. A renewed sense of righteousness washes over me. Daniel has to be stopped. Like Savannah said, it’s time to bring him down.

“Hi, Daniel.” I adopt the most submissive tone I can muster.

His head jerks up and he scans the crowd looking for the Royal brothers. When he doesn’t see them, he leans back, pulling the girl closer to his side, almost as if she’s a shield. “What do you want? I’m busy.”

I scuff the toe of my ballet slipper in the stamped concrete. “I wanted to apologize for the other night. I…I overreacted. You’re Daniel Delacorte and I’m…” I fight back my gag reflex, “…a trumped-up nobody.”

The girl shifts uncomfortably. “Um, I think I hear my sister calling for me.”

She slips out from under Daniel’s hand. When he protests, I jump in. “I just need Daniel for a minute and then he’s all yours.”

Daniel smirks. “Just a minute? I last a lot longer than that.”

The girl titters and runs away. I get it. It’s awkward as hell watching someone humiliating herself. The minute she’s out of earshot, Daniel’s careless smile turns into a glower. “What are you playing at?”

“I want another chance.” I lean forward so that my cleavage is on display for him. “I made a mistake. If you’d just told me what you wanted, I wouldn’t have overreacted.” God, I can’t believe I have to say this crap to him.

His eyes drop to my gaping neckline and he licks his lips like an awful pig. “The Royals didn’t seem really happy.”

“They were mad because I made a scene. They want me to shut up and stay out of sight.”

“Yet you’re here.”

“Their dad makes them bring me.”

He frowns. “So you want to get back at them? Is that it?”

“Honestly? Kind of,” I lie, because I think sticking it to the Royals might be something that will appeal to him. “I’m tired of those jerks forcing me to act like something I’m not.” I shrug. “I like to party and I like to have fun. I was trying to be all proper for their sake, but…that’s not who I am.”

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