Paper Princess Page 71

Reed presses a hand at the small of my back and I stumble forward down to the car. It’s so beautiful and clean and new that I’m afraid to even drive it.

“You ready to go for a ride?”

“No, not really,” I confess.

They all laugh, not at me, but in genuine, good-hearted amusement. My heart lurches. Is this really my family? The thought makes the few barriers I had left crumble away.

Callum hands me the keys along with a piece of paper. “This is the title to the car. No matter what happens, this is yours.”

Meaning that if I decide to leave, for whatever reason, he expects me to take this car with me. Which is nuts because I’m scared to even sit in it.

“Come on, let’s take this baby for a spin.” Reed opens the passenger door and slides in.

With all of them watching expectantly, I have no other choice but to walk around to the driver’s side. Reed explains how to move my seat forward, tilt the wheel down and operate the radio—the most important feature.

And then with a literal press of a button, the engine roars to life and we’re off.

“I hate driving,” I admit as I steer the car down the quiet two-lane road that leads to the Royal residence. My fingers are clutching the wheel hard and I can’t seem to bring myself to drive more than twenty-five miles an hour. The homes along this tree-lined boulevard are either gated or the driveway is so long you can’t see anything but a blacktop lane swallowed up by trees and bougainvillea.

The car is small enough that Reed can easily stretch his arm to rest it on the back of my seat. He threads his fingers through the ends of my hair. “It’s a good thing you have me then, because I like driving.”

“Do I?” I ask quietly, almost glad that I have to stare at the road instead of into his blue eyes. “Have you, that is?”

“Yeah, I think you do.”

And for the rest of the ride, it feels like I’m flying.

“Looks like you enjoyed yourself,” Callum greets us when we return.

“Best ride ever,” I declare. And then because I’m giddy with happiness, I throw myself into his arms. “You’ve been too good to me, Callum. Thank you. Thank you for everything.”

Callum’s stunned by my outburst of emotion but hugs me back quickly. The boys separate us, complaining about their empty stomachs and we all go out to a steak place down the road where the Royals eat enough for five families.

When we get home, I run upstairs to add the drive to my mental catalog of wonderful things that have happened in my life. I place it right after blow job.

That night, so late even the mice have tucked their babies in, Reed slides into my bed.

“I was having the best dream,” I mumble as he curls his body around my back.

“What was it?” he says roughly.

“That you showed up in my bedroom and held me all night long.”

“I like that dream,” he whispers in my ear and then he does just that—holds me until I fall asleep.

He’s gone again when I wake up, but the smell of him is on my sheets.

Downstairs, I find him leaning against the kitchen table.

“Don’t you have practice?” I ask lightly, not willing to believe that he still wants to drive me to work.

“Can’t have you on the road this early in a new vehicle. You need to break it in some more before you handle it while you’re half asleep.”

I try to downplay the way my excited heart is bouncing around the walls of my chest. “Hey, I was sleeping innocently until a big bear came in and decided that my bed was just right.”

He tugs on my hair. “I think you got the wrong fairytale here.”

“What would be the right one? Aladdin because you plan to take me on a magical carpet ride?” I waggle my eyebrows.

Reed bursts out laughing. “Is that what you think of my dick? That it’s magical?” I blush so furiously that he laughs even harder. “Damn, you really are a virgin, aren’t you?”

Cheeks still flaming, I flip up my middle finger. “That’s what I think of you and your magical, uh…”

“Dick,” he supplies between laughs. “Come on, virgin, just say it—dick.”

“Oh, you’re a dick, all right.” I glare at him all the way to the car.

Reed manages to gain control of himself as he buckles up. He leans over to kiss me, and that’s all it takes for my irritation to fade.

I’m practically floating on air during my morning shift at the French Twist, and my good mood stays with me throughout the school day. I run into Reed in the hall a few times, but other than a few secretive looks and a wink from him, we don’t speak. I don’t mind, because I’m not sure I’m ready to advertise to everyone at Astor Park that I’m kinda sorta involved with my kinda sorta stepbrother.

At lunch, Valerie and I are shocked when Savannah gestures for us to sit with her and her friends. I guess Operation Take-Down-Daniel-Delacorte was a success in more ways than one, though Savannah still doesn’t seem entirely comfortable around me.

After school, I lie on the south lawn doing my homework until Reed and Easton are done with their team meeting, and then Reed drives me back to the mansion, keeping his arm around me during the whole ride.

When we get home, we discover that Callum has gone on a business trip to Nevada, which means we’ll have the house to ourselves until Saturday. Hell yeah.

* * *

That evening, Reed waltzes into my bedroom while I’m reading.

“Sure, come on in. I don’t mind,” I say sarcastically. I roll over on my back and watch as he sets a huge bowl of popcorn on my nightstand.

“Thanks. Don’t mind if I do. Want something to drink?” He peers into my mini fridge. “Don’t you have anything without the word diet in here?”

He walks over and leans out in the hall. “Bring the beer. Ella just has diet shit.”

I hear a faint, “Got it,” echo from the end of the hall.

I scoot up against the headboard. “I’m afraid to ask what’s going on.”

“We’re watching the game.”


“You, me, and Easton. We,” he explains and then climbs on the bed. I move over so he doesn’t sit on top of me.

I look around dubiously. The bed is big enough to hold Reed and me, but Reed, Easton and me? “I don’t think we’ll fit.”

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