Home > Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(14)

Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(14)
Author: Erin Watt

Hartley crosses her arms, still not saying a word to me.

I glance down at the schedule. “I can’t wait for us to go to British Lit together,” I whisper gleefully.

Her jaw tightens.

This is fun. This is really fun.

Chapter 8

Hartley ignores me all throughout British Lit and then in Government, another class I’m not actually enrolled in but that I attend because it’s on her schedule. The teachers don’t even bat an eye at my presence; they just assume that if I’m there, then the office must know and is cool with it. Kind of irresponsible of them, if you ask me.

I guess technically what I’m doing can be considered stalking, but it’s not like I’m hurting her or being extra gross about trying to get in her pants. She’s just fun to bug.

Not that I’d be against getting in her pants. Or, rather, under her skirt, which covers the ass I’m currently admiring. It’s lunch, and I’m lurking behind Hartley in the cafeteria line. Her cute behind juts toward me as she reaches up to grab an apple.

Yeah, I’d tap that.

“Are you for real?” She spins around with indignation, and I realize I’d said that out loud.

I’m not about to apologize, though. I’m Easton Royal. I say dumb shit all the time. That’s part of my charm. “What? You should be flattered,” I assure her. “I’m a hot commodity at this school.”

Hartley purses her lips. I can see a hundred angry retorts flying through her head, but she’s a smart girl—she’s already figured out that arguing with me is absolutely pointless. I only get a kick out of it.

So she turns around and continues to pile food onto her tray.

I amble after her, doing the same. Astor Park’s cafeteria choices are serious shit, and totally unnecessary. A celebrity chef is hired each semester to create a menu full of poached fish and tarragon chicken to a bunch of teenagers who would rather have burgers and fries. The cafeteria is as overdone as everything else in this joint.

“You want to sit together in photography?” I ask her. “I heard we’re pairing up this afternoon and taking pictures of our seatmates.” I lean closer and murmur in her ear, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

Hartley plants a hand on my arm and gives me a small shove. “We’re not showing each other anything. And you’re not even in that class! Stop coming to my classes!”

I smile broadly at her. “And deprive you of my awesomeness? Never.”

She blinks. Then blinks again. Then she stares deep into my eyes. “Easton. Do you have a…problem? Like…upstairs?” She taps the side of her head.

I burst out laughing. “‘Course not.”

“Okay. So then you’re just so full of yourself that you don’t listen to a word anyone else says. Got it.”

“I listen,” I object.

“Uh-huh. I bet you do.”

“I do!” My solemn expression lasts for about a second before a grin breaks loose. “Like, when chicks say ‘Please, Easton, more!’ and ‘Omigod, Easton, you’re the best!’ I’m listening one hundred percent.”

“Wow.”

“I know, right? Wow.”

“I don’t think we’re wowing about the same thing.” She sighs heavily, then shuffles forward and grabs a serving spoon.

As she heaps a mountain of roasted potatoes onto her plate, I glance at her tray and realize she’s taken an insane amount of food. Sure, maybe she has a big appetite in general, but she’s so tiny that I can’t see where she’s putting away all this food. She either exercises like crazy, or…she’s a binge-and-purge type of girl.

That would be a damn shame. I hate it when girls are afraid of their own curves. Curves make the world go ’round. Hell, the world is round because it has curves. Curves rock. Curves—

I blink myself out of my thoughts. I go on tangents sometimes, not just out loud but in my head. These are the times when I want to smoke a joint or pound some booze, calm down the frenetic thoughts that race through my mind.

I’ve always been a bundle of energy, though, and it was even worse when I was a kid. I was on a perpetual sugar high even when I hadn’t had any sugar, bouncing around and around and around until I finally crashed, much to my parents’ relief.

“You want to do something tonight?” I ask Hartley.

She stops in her tracks.

I nearly slam into her, darting backward just in time. “Is that a yes?”

Her tone is matter-of-fact. “Look. Royal. I don’t know how much clearer I can make myself. I’m not interested in you.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Of course you don’t. You can’t possibly understand why someone might not want to be around you.”

I feign a hurt look. “Why don’t you want to be around me? I’m fun.”

“Yeah, you are,” she agrees. “You’re fun, Easton. So fun that you get beat up by a bunch of thugs on Salem Street. So fun that even when you’re about to black out, you still think it’s a good idea to get on your motorcycle and drive home—”

Shame pricks my chest.

“—So fun that you crash at some random girl’s apartment with a wad of cash in your pocket. I could have robbed you blind if I wanted to.” She shrugs. “I don’t have time for that kind of stuff. It’s too much of a burden.”

A burden?

“I didn’t ask to stay over,” I remind her, a bit stiffly. “And I left you cash for your trouble.” I lift a brow. “Which you didn’t even say ‘thank you’ for.”

“I was out of the house before you—how could I know you left me money? And even if I did know about it, why would I ever thank you? I slept on the floor while Prince Royal got my bed. I deserve to be compensated for that. I woke up with a cockroach crawling up my arm, you know.”

I shiver in horror. I hate bugs. Especially cockroaches. They’re the worst. And once again, I’m torn between annoyance and guilt. Because while I didn’t ask for her help, she did help me. And she did give up her bed—well, her sofa—so my sorry, beaten-up ass would have somewhere to sleep.

“Thank you for giving me a place to stay,” I say sheepishly.

Someone nudges us, so we shuffle forward again, moving toward the dessert bar. I’m not surprised when Hartley takes not one but two pieces of cheesecake.

I feel a pang of concern. I really hope she doesn’t have an eating disorder. It’s bad enough that Ella’s lost her appetite since Reed left. I don’t want to spend the whole school year monitoring the diets of the women in my life.

“You’re welcome,” Hartley tells me. “But just so you know? You only get one favor from me. That was it.”

Before I can inform her that I’m very much looking forward to returning the favor, Felicity Worthington interrupts us.

“Hi, Easton.”

A few feet away stand a couple of her friends: the one who has a headband permanently attached to her head, and her blonde companion in four-inch heels. The two girls whisper to each other behind their hands as Felicity stands there eyeing me like a predator.

“What’s up, Felicity?” I ask lightly.

“Bonfire at my place next week,” she answers sweetly. “I wanted to personally extend the invitation.”

I swallow a laugh. The Worthingtons live a few houses down the shore from my house, so I’ve been to a ton of their parties, always hosted by Felicity’s older brother, Brent. But the last one I went to ended up with Daniel Delacorte stripped naked and trussed like a pig at a luau, courtesy of Ella, Val, and Savannah Montgomery. They were punishing the asshat for drugging Ella at a different party. And then, after Daniel got free, he ran down the beach and into Reed’s fist.

Needless to say, the Royals haven’t been invited back since. But Brent graduated last year, so I guess Felicity’s in charge now.

“Yeah, maybe,” I say noncommittally. “It all depends on whether my girl wants to go.” I wink and turn toward Hartley, only to find her gone.

Dammit. She’s walking across the polished floor toward the French doors that lead to the outdoor eating area. As I watch, Hartley makes a beeline for one of the farthest tables on the patio and sits with her back to the dining hall doors. Of course. Eating alone, like the antisocial princess she is.

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