Home > Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(12)

Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(12)
Author: Erin Watt

I jump up with my fists flying. I don’t know who I’m fighting or even why, but it feels good. I take a kick in the gut and two punches to my upper body, but I land even more. I fight even though sweat and blood are clouding my eyes and filling my mouth. I fight until a stream of cold water blasts across my face. Huh. More water. Second time in one day.

“Enough!”

I find myself on my back looking up into Tony’s angry face. He’s got the end of a hose in his hand. My ears ring from his shouting or maybe a blow to the skull. I give my head a rough shake, but the ringing doesn’t go away.

“Time to go, Royal.”

I pick myself off the ground and blurrily take in the scattered tables, the floor littered with cash, and the bodies lying around.

“I didn’t start it,” I slur.

“Don’t care. Night’s a bust thanks to you. Get out.”

I plaster on a smile, even though it hurts like hell. “Aren’t you blaming the wrong party here? Who was that guy, anyway? I’ve been playing here for—”

“Are you deaf, son? I told you to get your pretty-boy ass out of my basement. And don’t come back.” He roughly shoves me toward the stairs.

The ringing persists. I stagger toward the exit, dragging myself up the steps. Man, my head kills.

The house is mostly empty. Outside, there’re a few people hanging out on the porch. I give a hasty wave and stumble down the steps.

The sidewalk shifts in front of me. I hold out my hand to steady myself but find nothing except air, and my forward momentum causes me to trip over my own feet. I fall to my knees.

Laughter lights up behind me. Assholes.

I push to my feet and then straighten. My bike is only a block away. Once I get there, I’ll be fine.

I lurch down the sidewalk, weaving and tottering, but I make it to my bike. I throw a leg over and try to start it. The motor rumbles but sputters out after a few seconds. I slam my hand on the tank and restart it. This time it roars to life. Good boy.

“Easton?”

I swing my head toward the familiar voice. What the hell?

Hartley Wright’s face appears in front of me, except there are like three of them. Three Hartleys to yell at me and be mean to me and soak me with water for having the nerve to want to kiss her. Awesome.

“Are you following me around?” I mutter.

“You wish.” The three Hartleys turn to leave.

I ease off on the clutch and the bike rolls forward.

“Wait.” She and her two doppelgangers return. “Come on. I’ll take you home.”

“You live around here?” Even with my shitty eyesight, I can see it’s a place where no Astor Park kid lives. Not even a scholarship student would come from this shithole, right?

“Come on.” She tugs on my sleeve. “If you drive off in this condition, you’ll hit some kid and ruin an entire family’s life.”

“Thanks for your concern for me,” I say sarcastically, but a sudden bone-deep weariness washes over me. She’s not wrong. My head’s ringing, I’m seeing double or triple, and my entire body aches.

Slowly, I back the bike against the curb and flip the kickstand down.

Or try to. I make four attempts before she leans down and pushes my foot aside.

“Why are you helping me?” I mumble.

“I have no clue.”

“You were a bitch to me at lunch.”

“You deserved it.”

She might’ve said something else, but my entire view turns black.

Chapter 7

The deep bass of Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” pounding between my ears has me searching for the snooze button. I hate early-morning practices. Eyes still closed, I fumble on my nightstand for my phone, but instead of a hard wood surface, I find nothing but air.

I reach out farther and end up dumping myself on the floor. The impact wakes me up.

As I scrape myself off the carpet, I realize that I’m not home. There’s a dingy carpet underneath my feet and a ratty sofa behind me. Two folding chairs sit at a small wooden table to my right. Just beyond that is a tiny space housing a refrigerator, stove, and sink.

The need to piss grips me. Two strides and I have the sole door in the joint open. The bathroom, like the rest of the place, is miniscule. A small sink, stand-up shower, and toilet fill the space.

I use the can, wash my hands, and dry them on a surprisingly nice hand towel. I fold it in half and hang it on the ring where I found it.

Back in the living space, I begin remembering last night’s events. I drove out to the slums on my Yamaha, played a few hands of cards, and then got into a fight.

I must’ve blacked out from a punch to the head. No, wait. Something happened before that.

Hartley.

Hartley brought me here right before I passed out. I dimly remember her ordering me to move my ass and then climbing an unholy number of steps.

But if I slept on the sofa, where did she sleep? This place doesn’t have another bedroom, and the sofa’s not big enough for two. She would’ve had to literally sleep on top of me, and given her aversion to me, I’m guessing she slept on the floor.

Crap.

I drag a hand through my hair. No, I’m not going to feel guilty about this. I never asked for her help, and I certainly didn’t ask to sleep on her couch even if I did need a place to crash last night.

I find my shoes and my sweatshirt on the table. Inside my sweatshirt is about three grand, which means she found my money and didn’t take a dime. She should’ve taken a finder’s fee.

I peel off a few bills and leave them on the table. Under my shoes there’s a note with a key taped to it.

“Lock up and put the key in this envelope and stick it in the mailbox downstairs.”

I tap the note against my chin. This girl is a mystery. Her parents live in an expensive mansion. Her dad is a big-shot prosecutor. Hartley, meanwhile, lives in the worst part of Bayview, where the walls are so thin I can hear the music her downstairs neighbor is playing, and yet she attends the best school in the state. What the heck is up with that?

I figured my senior year was going to be boring as hell. Ella spends most of her time talking to Reed on the phone, texting Reed, or visiting him up at State on the weekends. The twins are busy with their lives. Gideon’s at college, and when he does come home, he only wants to chill with Savannah.

I’m the odd man out and have been my whole life. Before Gid left home, it was the oldest two and the youngest two, with me futzing around in the middle.

Mom said that this showed my individualism and self-sufficiency. I could always find something to do. I didn’t need my brothers. Plus, I made friends easier than any of them. I had dozens of friends. My contact list was full of them.

Yet…I didn’t call even one person on that list last night. Instead, I tried to get on my bike and ride home like some dumb asshole whose brain is smaller than his ballsack.

I leave Hartley’s apartment and lock up, but I pocket the key instead of sliding it into the envelope. Practice is in thirty minutes, which means I’m going to be late. So much for setting a precedent with yesterday’s early arrival.

My cellphone shows a bunch of texts from Ella.

Where r u?

Callum looking 4 u

Shit. At this rate, I’m never going to get in the air again. I really need to work on my decision-making skills in the future.

I covered 4 u. Told him u left already

I walk toward the stairs. The alley next to Hartley’s house smells like cat poop and dog piss and—well, it pretty much reeks like every bad animal smell you can think of. It’s brutal.

I text back, Thanks 4 covering 4 me. OMW

* * *

Everyone’s still in the locker room by the time I arrive. Practice this morning consists of drills, clubbing and running, bull rushing, and combo bag drills. My legs feel like jelly at the end of it.

Now that Bran Mathis is heading up the offense, Coach is no longer taking it easy on us. I think he’d given up once our QB situation got so dismal, and didn’t want to risk injuring any of his remaining players for what was bound to be a write-off season. Now, all bets are off.

Pash throws me a water bottle and then chugs his own. “Damn, I’m out of shape,” he gasps. “I did too much drinking and smoking this summer.”

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