Paper Princess Page 75

Finally three bouncers push through the crowd and yank Reed away, leaving Scott lying on the floor—blood streaming from his nostrils and one eye swollen shut.

“You’re going to have to leave,” one of the black T-shirt clad bouncers snaps.

“Fine.” Reed jerks out of the bouncer’s grasp and grabs my wrist. I know what he wants before he opens his mouth.

“I’ll get Easton,” I assure him.

Reed nods. He points to one of the bouncers, a blond guy who looks like he eats steroids for breakfast and small children for dinner. “You, stay with her. Anything happens to her again,” he stresses that word, “this place will be shut down and turned into a kiddie playground before end of business tomorrow.”

I don’t wait for the bouncers and Reed to come to an agreement. It’s time for Reed to get out of here. He’s filled with adrenaline and I can see he needs to exit this bar before the urge to get into another fight overtakes him.

“Easton’s over by the bathrooms,” Reed shouts as the bouncers escort him toward the entrance. I’ve lost track of Val, but I’ve got to get to Easton.

As I hurry away, I hear whispers. The people nearest to the fight have started gossiping.

“What just happened?”

“I think we just saw the proclamation of another Royal decree. Say anything bad about Ella Royal and you’ll be drinking your meals from a straw for the next six months.”

“She must be awesome in bed,” someone remarks.

“No sex like trashy sex,” another voice says. “Those bitches will let you do anything.”

My ears burn and I’m tempted to repeat Reed’s violent actions on every one of those smug faces, but I can’t stop because I catch sight of Easton in the hallway near the bathrooms.

I push through the crowd, but Easton doesn’t go into the men’s room. Instead he walks to the end of the hall toward the exit door.

“Excuse me,” I mutter as I duck around the line of girls waiting to use the ladies’ room and past a couple making out in a not-so-dark corner.

“Easton,” I call, but he doesn’t stop. I know he hears me, because I can see his body twitch in acknowledgment. But he just keeps going.

I race down the hall, emerging from the door several seconds after him. I instantly skid to a halt.

He’s in the back alley with two other guys, and it doesn’t look like they’re enjoying a smoke break.

Oh no. What has Easton gotten himself into?

The two guys have dark brown hair, slicked back away from their faces. They’re wearing white T-shirts and jeans that hang down low and I’d bet if they turned around I’d see their boxers. Not that I would want to. A metal chain hangs from one of their belt loops.

“Go inside, Ella.” Easton’s voice is harder and colder than I’ve ever heard from him before.

“Now hold up,” says the chain guy. “You can pay your debt off with her if you want.” He grabs his crotch. “Lend the bitch to me for a week and we’ll call it even.”

My life before the Royals was filled with seediness, and I recognize a shake down when I see one.

The Monday night football game runs through my mind.

“How much?” I ask Mr. Chain.

“Ella—” Easton starts.

I cut him off. “How much does he owe you?”

“Eight grand.”

I nearly faint, but beside me, Easton tries to shrug it off like eight grand is pocket change. “I’ll have it next week. All you have to do is sit tight.”

If it was pocket change he wouldn’t be here in the back of the bar being threatened, and Mr. Chain knows it. “Yeah right. You rich kids live on credit, but not with me. I don’t carry your broke asses on my books for longer than a week because I gotta pay the bills. So pony up your cash or you get to be this week’s warning to all your pussy friends that Tony Loreno isn’t anyone’s pawn broker.”

Easton’s shoulders set in a hard line as he slightly adjusts his stance. Shit. He’s preparing for a fight, and we all know it.

Tony reaches inside his pocket and fear spikes in my chest.

“Stop.” I dig into my purse for my keys. “I’ve got your money. Wait here.”

“What the hell, Ella?” Easton barks out.

No one waits. They all follow me to my car.


As I hit the key fob to unlock the trunk, I scan the parking lot for Reed’s Range Rover. I don’t see it anywhere, which means he probably parked in one of the spots along the other side of the building.

Relief floods my stomach, because Reed stumbling onto this little showdown would be the worst thing that could happen right now. He already beat the crap out of one guy tonight and I know he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, especially to back up his brother.

“You better not be reaching for a weapon in there,” Tony hisses out, hovering behind me.

I roll my eyes. “Yeah, buddy, I keep an arsenal of assault rifles in the trunk of my car. Chill.”

I lift up the felt square that covers the compartment for the spare tire and reach for the plastic baggie I stashed underneath the jack. There’s a heavy feeling in my chest as I pull the stack of cash from the bag and count out eight grand worth of bills.

Easton doesn’t say a word, but he watches me with a frown. He frowns even harder when I slap the bills into Tony’s hand.

“There. You guys are square now. Pleasure doing business with you,” I say sarcastically.

Smirking, Tony stands there and counts the money. Twice. When he starts to do it a third time, Easton growls.

“It’s all there, jackass. Get the hell out of here.”

“Watch yourself, Royal,” Tony warns. “I still might make an example of you just because I feel like it.”

But we all know he won’t. A beating would only draw attention to us and to his “business” dealings.

“Oh, and you can place your bets somewhere else from now on,” Tony says coldly. “Your money’s no good to me anymore. I’m tired of seeing your ugly face.”

The two guys stalk off, Tony tucking the cash in his back pocket, and yep, I can see his boxers hanging out of his pants.

When they’re gone, I spin around to Easton. “What is wrong with you? Why would you ever associate with creeps like that?”

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