Paper Princess Page 67


I reach the railing at the same time Easton pops out of his bedroom. His dark hair sticks up in all directions, and his eyes are bloodshot as he comes up beside me. “What the hell,” he mumbles.

We both look down at foyer, where Brooke and Callum are facing off. It’s comical almost, because she’s more than a head shorter than him thus posing the least threatening picture on the planet.

“It’s my right to be there!” Brooke shouts, jamming the center of Callum’s chest with one sharp fingernail.

“No, it isn’t. You’re not a Royal and you’re not an O’Halloran. It’s not your place.”

“Then tell me, what is my place? Why do I put up with all your bullshit then? You treat me like I’m your mistress instead of your girlfriend! Where’s my ring, Callum? Where the fuck is my ring?”

I can’t see Callum’s face, but I don’t miss the tension in his shoulders. “My wife’s body is barely even cold!” he roars.

Beside me, Easton tenses up, too. I reach out and take his hand, and he squeezes my fingers tight enough to bring a sting of pain.

“You expect me to just remarry like it’s no big deal—”

“Two years!” Brooke interrupts. “She’s been dead for two years! Get over it!”

Callum stumbles as if she’s struck him.

“I won’t let you string me along anymore. I won’t.” Brooke lunges forward and grabs the front of his dress shirt, bunching it between her fingers. “I am done with you, you hear me? Done!”

With that, she shoves his chest and spins toward the door, her high heels slapping the marble floor.

Callum doesn’t go after her, and when she realizes it, she whirls around and points a finger at him. “If I walk out right now, I am never coming back!”

His voice is colder than ice. “Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.”

Easton snickers.

“You…you…you monster!” Brooke shrieks. She flings open the door with so much force that a gust of air blows through the foyer and I feel it from the second floor.

Her blonde head and minidress-clad body disappear through the threshold. She slams the door with equal force.

Silence crashes over the foyer. I see a flash of movement in the corner of my eye, and I turn around to find the other Royals standing behind us. The twins look sleepy. Gideon looks shocked. Reed’s face is impassive, but I swear I see a glimpse of triumph in his eyes.

Easton doesn’t even try to hide his glee. “Did that really just happen?” he asks us, shaking his head in amazement.

Callum hears his son’s voice, and his head tilts up to the railing. He looks stricken, but not devastated that his girlfriend just stormed off.

“Dad,” Easton calls out, grinning from ear-to-ear. “You the man! Come up here and gimme a high five.”

His father’s expression turns weary. Instead of answering Easton, Callum flicks his gaze toward me. “Since you’re awake, Ella, why don’t you come down to my study? We need to have a little chat.” Then he exits the foyer.

I bite my lip, hesitant to follow him. I suddenly remember what he just said to Brooke—how she’s not a Royal or an O’Halloran—and my anxiety grows. I have a feeling they were fighting about Steve. Which means that indirectly, it was also about me.

“Go,” Reed murmurs when I don’t move from the railing.

As usual, I instinctively obey his command. It’s like he has a hold on me and I’m not sure I like it. But I’m helpless to stop it.

I walk downstairs on wobbly legs and find Callum in the study. He’s already hit the liquor cabinet, pouring himself a glass of scotch when I walk in.

“Are you okay?” I ask quietly.

He waves the glass in his hand, causing liquid to splash over the rim. “I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m sorry you had to wake up to that.”

“Do you think it’s really over with you two?” I can’t help but feel bad for Brooke. I’ve seen a bitchy side to her, definitely, but she’s also been nice to me. Or at least I think she has. Brooke Davidson is a tough nut to crack.

“Probably.” He sips his drink. “She wasn’t entirely out of line. Two years is a long time for a woman to wait.” Callum sets the glass on his desk and runs a hand through his hair. “The reading of the will is scheduled for two weeks from tomorrow.”

I look blankly at him. “The will?”

“Yes. Steve’s will.”

I’m still confused. “Didn’t that already happen? I thought you said there was a funeral.”

“There was, but the estate hasn’t been settled yet. Dinah and I started probate after Steve’s death, but the reading itself was put off until you could be located.”

I bet Dinah must have loved that. “Do I really have to be there? Doesn’t Dinah inherit everything because she’s his wife?”

“It’s a lot more complicated than that.” He doesn’t elaborate. “But yes, you need to be there. I’ll be there, too, as your legal guardian, and so will Dinah and our lawyers. She left for Paris last night, but she’ll be back in two weeks, and then we’ll get everything straightened out. It’ll be painless, I promise.”

With Dinah O’Halloran in attendance? Yeah right. Painful is more like it.

But I just nod and say, “Okay. If I have to go, I’ll go.”

He nods, too, and picks up his drink again.

* * *

Callum takes off shortly after to play golf. He claims that walking the eighteen links helps clear his mind. I worry about how loaded he plans to get and then remind myself that he’s the adult and I’m the seventeen-year-old, so I bite my tongue.

One by one the Royals leave. Gideon heads off before lunch to go back to college. He always looks happier leaving than arriving.

Soon it’s just me. I heat up leftover quiche and then consider going for a walk on the beach.

It’s only been a month at the Royal household, but that month has been full of, well, life. Stuff is always happening. It’s not always good stuff, but I haven’t been alone, and until now, in this moment of solitude, I realize I don’t like being alone. It’s nice to have friends and family around, even if the family is super dysfunctional.

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