Paper Princess Page 34

Another emotion eclipses my embarrassment—rage. White-hot rage that surges through my blood and makes the tips of my fingers tingle. I’m sick of this. I’m sick of the judgment and the insults and the sneers. I’m sick of it all.

I crumple Jordan’s note in my fist and whip it across the room. Then I spin on my heel and march toward the exit.

Halfway to the door, I halt. My gaze travels back to the skanky underwear on the bench.

You know that?

They think I’m trash? I’ll show them trash.

Maybe it’s the anger, or the frustration, or the lump of sheer helplessness lodged in my throat, but I don’t feel in control of my own body. My hands rip at my clothes as if on autopilot, and I’m so mad I can taste the fury. My mouth is even watering. God, I’m foaming at the mouth.

I yank the scrap of lace up my hips, snap the bra into place, and march toward the door. Not the door that leads outside, but the one that will take me to the gym.

I leave the stilettos on the bench. I’m going to need my balance.

My bare feet slap the floor, each step I take fueled by anger and a sense of injustice. These people don’t know me. They have no right to judge me. I throw open the door and enter the gym. Head high, hands at my sides.

Someone notices me and gasps.

“Holy fuck.” A male voice echoes from the other end of the gym, where the partition separating the weights and exercise equipment from the court is pushed open.

A clanging sound echoes through the gym, as if someone dropped a barbell.

My step stutters. The entire football team is over there lifting weights and working out. I sneak the briefest peek in their direction and feel my cheeks heat up. Every pair of male eyes is glazed over. Every jaw is unhinged. Except one. One jaw stays locked tight, as Reed’s blue eyes blaze at me.

I tear my gaze off him and continue toward the group of girls who are stretching on a pile of blue mats. I add a little sway to my hips, and they all stop mid-stretch, wide-eyed.

Jordan’s shock only registers for a moment. Then it fades to wariness. When she sees the look on my face, I swear she trembles. A second later, she hops to her feet and crosses her arms over her chest.

She’s wearing bootie shorts and a tight tank top, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her body is long and toned. Strong. But so is mine.

“You really have no dignity, do you?” She smirks at my getup.

I stop in front of her. I don’t say a word. Every single person in the gym is looking at us. No, they’re looking at me. I’m half-naked, and I know I look good even in this sleazy outfit. I might not have billionaire parents like these kids do, but I inherited my mother’s looks.

These girls know it, too. A few envious glances flit my way before they’re shielded with scowls.

“What do you want?” Jordan demands when I still don’t utter a word. “I don’t care what Coach Kelley says. You’re not trying out.”

“No?” I feign an innocent look. “But I was so looking forward to it.”

“Well, it’s not happening.”

I smile at her. “That’s too bad. I was dying to show you how we do it in the gutter. But I guess I still can.”

Before she can respond, I wind my arm back and send my fist crashing into her face.

Instant pandemonium breaks out. Jordan’s head jerks back from the blow, and her shriek of outrage gets lost in the sea of male hoots all around us. One of the guys shouts, “Catfight!” but I don’t have time to see who it is, because Jordan launches herself at me.

The bitch is strong. We crash to the mats and suddenly she’s on top of me, her fists coming at me. I deflect and roll us, elbowing her in the stomach before yanking on her ponytail and pulling hard. My vision is an angry blur. I land another blow to her cheek, and she retaliates by raking her nails down my left arm.

“Get off me, you stupid bitch!” she screams.

I ignore the pain shooting up my arm and raise my other fist. “Make me.”

I let the fist fly, but before it can connect with her smug face, I’m sailing backward through the air. Muscular arms lock around my chest and yank me away from Jordan.

I pound at my captor’s forearms. “Let me go!”

He growls in my ear. I don’t need to turn around to know it’s Reed. “Calm the fuck down,” he spits out.

Three feet away, Jordan’s friends are helping her to her feet. She touches her red cheek and glares at me. She looks ready to lunge again, but Shea and Rachel hold her back.

The adrenaline sizzling through my veins is making me jumpy. But I know I’m about to crash hard. I’m already starting to feel weak and loopy, my upper body trembling against Reed’s strong chest.

“Let me at her, Reed,” Jordan bursts out. Her hair has come loose from her ponytail and falls into her enraged eyes, and a bruise is already forming on one high cheekbone. “This bitch deserves a—”

“Enough.” His sharp voice cuts her off.

Her menacing expression wavers when Reed releases me. He rips his sweaty T-shirt off, and now half the girls are ogling his ripped abs while the other half continue to stare at me in contempt.

Reed shoves the shirt at me. “Put this on.”

I don’t think twice. I yank the shirt over my head. When my head pops out of the neckhole, I see Jordan glaring bloody murder at me.

“Now get the hell out of here,” Reed snaps at me. “Get dressed and go home.”

A thirty-something man with balding hair marches forward. He’s wearing a coach’s uniform and a whistle around his neck, but I know he’s not the head coach, because I saw Easton in the hall once talking to Coach Lewis. This one must be the team trainer or something, and he looks livid.

“These girls aren’t going anywhere but the headmaster’s office,” he announces.

With a bored look, Reed turns to the man. “No, my sister is going home. Jordan can go wherever you tell her.”

“Reed,” the man warns. “You’re not in charge here.”

Reed sounds impatient. “It’s done. Over. They’re calm now.” He shoots us a pointed look. “Right?”

I nod curtly.

So does Jordan.

“So let’s not waste Beringer’s time.” Reed’s voice is commanding and forceful with a hint of amusement, as if he’s getting off on telling this older man what to do. “Because we both know he won’t take any action. My father will pay him off and Ella will get nothing but a slap on the wrist. Jordan’s father will do the same.”

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