Paper Princess Page 80

There’s no question she’s naked. She kisses Reed’s neck, all the while looking at me. And he doesn’t move. Not one muscle.

“Reed…” His name is no more than a whisper, a painful scratch against my throat.

“Your desperation is sad.” Brooke’s voice sounds wrong in this room. “You should leave. Unless…” She stretches out a bare leg and drapes it outside of Reed’s hips, which are still covered in the cotton of his sweatpants. “Unless you want to watch.”

The pain in my throat gets worse as she remains wrapped around him and he makes no effort to move away.

Her hand drifts down his arm and when it reaches his wrist, he moves—a tiny, almost imperceptible flinch. I watch with alarm as her fingers glide across his abs, and before she can take hold of what I’d started to believe belonged to me, I turn abruptly and leave.

I had been wrong. Wrong about so many things that my mind can’t catalog them all.

When we were moving around so often, I thought I needed roots. When Mom had her umpteenth boyfriend who leered at me too long, I wondered if I needed a father figure. When I was alone at night and she was working long, tiring hours waiting tables, stripping and God knows what else to keep me fed and clothed, I longed for siblings. When she was sick, I prayed for money.

And now I have all of that and I am worse off than before.

I run to my bedroom and stuff my backpack full of my makeup, my two pairs of skinny jeans, five T-shirts, underwear, stripper gear from Miss Candy’s and my mother’s dress.

I keep the tears at bay because crying isn’t going to get me out of this nightmare. Only putting one foot in front of the other.

The house is deathly silent. The echoes of Brooke’s laughter when I told her that there was one good and decent man out there bounces from one side of my skull to the other.

My imagination conjures up visions of Brooke and Reed. His mouth on her, his fingers touching her. Outside the house, I stumble to the corner and vomit.

Acid coats my mouth but I push on. The car starts immediately. I shove it into gear and, with shaking hands, navigate down the driveway. I keep waiting for that movie moment when Reed runs out of the house, screaming for me to come back.

But it never happens.

There’s no rain-filled reunion and the only moisture are the tears I can’t hold back any longer.

The monotone voice of the GPS directs me to my destination. I shut off the engine, pull out the title to the car and shove it in my Auden book. Auden wrote that when the boy falls from the sky after calamity after calamity, he still has a future somewhere and that there’s no point in dwelling on one’s loss. But did he suffer this? Would he have written that if he had lived my life?

I rest my head on the steering wheel. My shoulders shake from my sobs and my stomach heaves again. I lurch out of the car and stagger on shaky legs to the entrance of the bus station.

“You all right, honey?” the ticket counter attendant asks, looking worried. Her kindness wrenches another sob from me.

“My-my grandmother passed,” I lie.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. Funeral then?”

I jerk my head in a nod.

She types into her computer, the long nails clicking against the keyboard. “Round trip?”

“No, one way. I don’t think I’m coming back.”

Her hands pause above the keys. “Are you sure? It’s cheaper to buy a round trip ticket.”

“There’s nothing here for me. Nothing,” I repeat.

I think it’s the anguish in my eyes that gets her to stop asking questions. She silently prints out the ticket. I take it and climb into the bus that cannot take me far enough and fast enough from this place.

Reed Royal has broken me. I’ve fallen from the sky and I’m not sure I can get up. Not this time.

Stay Connected

Will Ella return to the Royal mansion full of its royal problems, or has Reed lost her for good? And are you curious to find out who says this in Broken Prince?

“You look gorgeous and hot and if I stay in here any longer, your virginity will be on the floor somewhere next to yesterday’s panties.”