Home > Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(8)

Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(8)
Author: Erin Watt

Bran shrugs. “Football’s my ticket to a better life. It’s worth the sacrifice. Plus, your body is your temple, right? “

I grab a towel and use it to mop my sweaty neck. “Nah, man,” I answer with a grin. “My body’s a playground. No, wait. It’s an amusement park. Eastonland. Chicks come from far and wide to experience those wild Eastonland rides.”

Mathis hoots. “You always such a cocky bastard, Royal?”

“Always!” Pash confirms from the other side of the weight room.

“Seriously, it’s fucking annoying,” another teammate, Preston, chimes in.

“They’re just jealous,” I explain to Mathis. “Especially Preston.” In a stage whisper I add, “Poor guy’s still a virgin. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.”

Preston flips up his middle finger. “Screw off, Royal. You know that’s not true.”

“Nothing to be ashamed of,” I assure him, enjoying the way his face gets redder and redder. Preston’s so easy to needle. “Someone’s got to be around to exchange purity rings with the debutantes.”

The jokes and trash-talking go on for the rest of practice, and even though it’s fun, I’m disappointed we’re only lifting today. I would’ve liked to let out some aggression on the turf, but Coach takes strength and conditioning as seriously as field drills.

After a quick shower, I change into my uniform and march across campus with one destination in mind: Hartley Wright’s locker.

The first thing I see when I get there is Hartley’s butt. Well, kind of. She’s standing on her tiptoes, straining to reach something on the top shelf of her locker. Her skirt rides up, revealing a hint of bare thigh.

She didn’t hem the skirt, I realize. All the other chicks at this school hem their skirts to the shortest length that Beringer lets them get away with. Hartley leaves hers long, just above her knees.

“Lemme get that for you,” I offer.

She starts in surprise and bangs her head on the underside of the locker shelf. “Ow!” she exclaims. “Dammit, Royal.”

I snicker as she rubs her head. “Sorry. Was just trying to be helpful.” I lean past her and grab the textbook she was reaching for. “PS, maybe don’t put stuff on the top shelf if you’re too short to get it?”

Hartley scowls at me. “I’m not short.”

“Really?” I arch a brow and peer down at her.

“Really,” she insists. “I’m just vertically challenged.”

“Uh-huh. Let’s call it that, sure.” I place the book in her waiting hands, then rummage around in my backpack. “Speaking of me being awesome and helpful—”

“Nobody said you were awesome or helpful,” she interjects.

I ignore that. “I made copies of my calc notes for you. You’re starting class today, right?”

Hartley nods slowly. She looks a bit suspicious as she accepts the notes from me. “This is very…nice of you.”

I get the feeling she’d rather punch herself in the face than compliment me, which triggers a huge smile. “You’re welcome.”

“I didn’t say thank you.”

“You said I was awesome—”

“Didn’t say that, either.”

“—which is the same as saying thank-you.” I move closer and pat her on the head. She bats my hand away. “So, you’re welcome. By the way, I went over to your house last night and—”

“You what?” she screeches.

“I went over to your house.” I stare at her. “Is that not allowed?”

“Who answered the door?” she demands. “Was it my sister? How’d she look?”

How’d she look? She’s acting like she doesn’t even live there. “I don’t know. Your mom answered and when I asked if you were home, she said no and slammed the door in my face. What’s up with that?”

“My mother’s not the nicest,” is all she says, sounding resigned.

“No shit.”

Around us, the hallway is starting to get crowded. I notice Felicity and a couple of her friends lurking five feet away. They look mighty interested in my conversation with Hartley. I angle my body to block their view.

“So. Where were you?” I ask. “Hot date?”

“No. I don’t date.” Her tone is absent, and she’s gnawing on the side of her thumb.

“Like ever?”

“Like now. I don’t have time for dating.”

I frown. “Why not?”

She looks at me. “You’re super cute—”

I perk up, but she’s not done.

“—and in another life I’d jump all over the chance to date you, but I don’t have the time or energy to be with someone like you.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It means I’m going to class.” She slams her locker shut.

“So we’ll see each other at lunch, then.”

I don’t get a response. But then again, I’m Easton Royal. I don’t really need one. I know she’ll come around. They all do.

Chapter 5

I waste ten minutes of my lunch period waiting for Hartley to show up. When my stomach starts growling, I trudge into the dining hall. What’s her deal, anyway? She admitted that I’m “super cute” and that she wants to be with me. End of story. Why she keeps running makes no sense. Doesn’t have time for me? Like I’m some high-maintenance boyfriend who needs nonstop attention? Ha.

“Easton! Over here!” A high-pitched voice hails me.

I cringe. Claire refuses to let me go, even though we haven’t dated for a year. Unlike Hartley, I know it’s not nice to ignore people, but I also know that when I give Claire even the smallest bit of attention, she takes it the wrong way. A hello in the hallway becomes a prom proposal in her head. If I eat lunch with her, she’ll be sending out save-the-date notices for an impending engagement party.

Gritting my teeth, I grab a tray and load it up with food, then make my way across the cafeteria. Well, with its oak-paneled walls, round tables, and floor-to-ceiling windows, the massive room looks more like a restaurant in a private club than a cafeteria. But that’s Astor Park Prep for you. Wealth and excess is the only way we roll.

I think the reason I’m interested in Hartley is because I’m bored. Every face here at Astor, I’ve seen for the last three years. Some of them, like Felicity Worthington, I’ve known since I was in diapers. She was just as irritating at the age of five as she is now.

School is boring. Like, I already know all the stuff that Ms. Mann is teaching. My grades aren’t great, but that’s because the subject matter is too easy. It’s not like I need good grades to test planes, as long as I know what I’m doing. And I do. I just can’t be bothered to show it right now.

Hartley is a nice distraction. A puzzle whose pieces don’t all fit together. And to be fair to her, I’m a good time. She’d be lucky to have me. So really, I shouldn’t let it go. For her sake and all.

Ella and her best friend, Val, are already at our usual table when I walk up. So are my twin brothers and their girl, Lauren.

Yeah, Sawyer and Seb share a girlfriend, but who am I to judge? I hooked up with my calc teacher yesterday.

“What’s wrong?” Sawyer asks when I park my ass in the chair next to Ella’s.

“Nothing,” I lie.

Across the table, Val’s dark eyes twinkle mischievously. “You’re lying.”

“I am not,” I lie again.

“You totally are. I always know when you’re lying.” She shoves a strand of dark hair behind her ear and leans toward me. “You get this little crease right here—” Val’s index finger traces a line across my forehead. “Sort of like ‘It’s painful for me to lie, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.’ Know what I mean?”

I capture Val’s hand before she can snatch it back. “Always looking for any excuse to touch me, eh, Carrington?”

She snickers. “You wish, Royal.”

“I do,” I answer solemnly. “I wish it so hard. Every night when I’m lying in bed all alone.”

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