Home > Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(2)

Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(2)
Author: Erin Watt

“Okay,” I assure her. “I’ll fix it.” How, I have no frickin’ idea, but Ms. Mann is two seconds away from a nervous breakdown.

She lets out another low moan. “And this can never happen again, do you understand me? Never again.”

I’m totally cool with that. Her panic attack killed the mood, along with any interest in a repeat performance. I like my hookups to end as pleasantly as they begin. There’s nothing sexy about being with a girl who has regrets, so you gotta make sure at the start that she’s fully into it. If there’s any question about her interest, it’s a no go.

“Gotcha,” I say with a nod.

Ms. Mann stares at me with pleading eyes. “Why are you still here? Go!”

Right.

I shoulder my backpack and exit the classroom. Out in the hall, I take a quick survey. It’s more crowded than it should be. Why is everyone loitering in the halls? School’s over, for chrissake. Go home, people.

My eyes skip over Felicity Worthington, who flips her platinum-blonde hair over one shoulder. Claire Donahue, my ex, spears me with a pair of hopeful blue eyes—she’s been itching to get back together since school started. I avoid meeting her gaze and move on to Kate and Alyssa, the Ballinger sisters. Neither of them has black hair. I scan the rest of the hallway but come up empty.

I’m about to turn away when Felicity leans over to whisper something in Claire’s ear, and in the space previously occupied by Felicity’s head, I spot her. The girl’s face is in her locker, but her hair is unmistakable, so black it’s almost blue under the overhead fluorescent lighting.

I stride forward.

“Easton,” I hear Claire say.

“Don’t humiliate yourself,” Felicity advises.

I ignore them both and keep walking.

“Hey,” I say.

The girl looks up from her locker. Startled gray eyes collide with mine. A set of pink lips part. I wait for her smile—the response I get from 99% of women, no matter their age. It doesn’t come. Instead, I get a face full of hair as she whirls and sprints down the hallway.

Surprise stalls my response. That and I don’t want to draw an audience. Nonchalantly, I close her locker before following her fleeing figure down the hall. Once I hit the turn, I run, too. With my much longer legs, I’m able to catch her outside the locker rooms.

“Hey,” I say, planting myself in front of her. “Where’s the fire?”

She stops hard, nearly falling over. I grab her shoulder to make sure she doesn’t do a header into the tile.

“I didn’t see anything,” she blurts out, shrugging away from my steadying hand.

I glance over her shoulder to make sure we don’t have an audience, but the hallway is empty. Good.

“Sure, you didn’t. That’s why you ran away like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar.”

“Technically, you’re the one with the hand in the cookie jar,” she retorts. And then slams her lips together as she realizes what she admitted. “Not that I saw a thing.”

“Uh-huh.” What to do with this cutie? Too bad I’m supposed to scare her into silence.

I move forward. She edges sideways.

I keep going until she’s backed up against the wall. I lean down until my forehead’s about an inch from hers. So close I can smell the spearmint of her gum.

Fix this, Ms. Mann had said. And she’s right. What happened in that classroom was supposed to be fun. That’s all I want—to have fun, not ruin people’s lives. It was fun doing something dirty and wrong. It was fun toying with the idea of getting caught.

But Ms. Mann losing her job and her kid being homeless? Not in the fun category.

“So—” I start in a low voice.

“Um, Royal, right?” the girl interrupts.

“Yeah.” I’m not surprised she knows me. Not that I’m proud of it, but the Royals have run this school for years. Thankfully, I’ve avoided any leadership role. Ella’s the Royal in charge now. I’m merely her enforcer. “And you are?”

“Hartley. Look, I swear, I didn’t see anything.” She holds up her hand as if pledging allegiance to the truth.

“If that was true, you wouldn’t have run, Hartley.” I turn her name over in my head. It’s an unusual one, but I can’t place it. Or her face, for that matter. Astor doesn’t see a lot of new faces. I’ve been with most of these assholes for as long as I can remember.

“Seriously. I’m a monkey.” Hartley continues her feeble defense, folding one hand over her eyes and another across her mouth. “See no evil, speak no evil. Not that what you did was evil. Or what you may have been doing. Not that I saw anything. Evil or good.”

Charmed, I tap the hand over her mouth. “You’re babbling.”

“New school nerves.” She straightens her school-mandated blazer and juts out her chin. “Maybe I did see something, but it’s none of my business, okay? I’m not going to say anything.”

I cross my arms, my own blazer drawing tight over my shoulders. She looks like she wants to fight. I love it, but flirting with her isn’t going to generate the results I need. I inject some menace into my voice, hoping fear will curb her tongue. “Thing is, I don’t know you. So how am I supposed to take your word for it?”

The menace works, because Hartley visibly gulps. “I…I won’t say anything,” she repeats.

Instantly, I feel bad. What am I doing scaring a girl like this? But then the fearful face of Ms. Mann pops into my head. Ms. Mann has a kid, and Hartley is just another rich prep school classmate. She can handle a little warning.

“Yeah? And what if someone—Headmaster Beringer, maybe—asks you about it?” I slant my head in challenge, my tone getting more and more threatening. “What then, Hartley? What would you say?”

Chapter 2

As Hartley contemplates my question, I mentally catalogue her. She’s a tiny thing—probably a foot shorter than my six-foot, one-inch frame. There’s not much to brag about in the boob department, and down below she’s wearing a pair of really ugly loafers. Footwear is the only thing that isn’t dictated by the school’s dress code—the one expression of individuality we’re allowed. The guys run around in sneakers or Timbs. Most girls opt for something fancy like a Gucci flat or the red-soled heels. I guess Hartley’s statement is I don’t give a fuck. I can appreciate that.

Everything else about her is ordinary. Her uniform is standard. Her hair is straight and long. Her face isn’t striking enough to draw the eye. Ella, for example, is drop dead gorgeous. My ex, Claire, was recently named debutante of the year. This Hartley girl has manga big eyes and a wide mouth. Her nose kind of tips up on the end, but none of her features are going to be gushed over in Southern Living Quarterly.

Said nose wrinkles as she finally responds. “Well, let’s think about what I actually saw back there, right? I mean…technically, I saw a teacher picking up something off the floor. And a student was, um, holding her hair out of the way so she could see better. It was very sweet. And kind. If Headmaster Beringer asked, I’d tell him you’re an upstanding citizen and nominate you for student of the week.”

“Really? That’s what you’re going with?” The urge to laugh is strong, but I figure that will ruin the effectiveness of any threat I need to dish out.

“Swear to God.” She holds a small hand over her chest. Her nails are short and missing the picture-perfect manicure that most of the Astor girls sport.

“I’m an atheist,” I inform her.

A frown mars her face. “You’re being difficult.”

“Hey, I’m not the one playing Peeping Tom.”

“It’s school!” Her voice rises for the first time. “I should be able to peek into any classroom I want!”

“So you admit to watching me.” I struggle to keep the smile off my face.

“Okay. Now I see why you have to get it on with a teacher. No normal girl would want to put up with you.”

At her exasperated outburst, I give up on the intimidation because I can’t hide my grin any longer. “You won’t know until you try.”

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