Home > Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(5)

Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(5)
Author: Erin Watt

I’m stuck doing the same old shit—which includes walking downstairs to have dinner with my family, a tradition that stopped after my mom died and started up again when Dad brought Ella to live with us. After Ella’s biological father, Steve O’Halloran, was arrested for murder, these family dinners became nonnegotiable. We’re not allowed to skip them, even when it’s obvious nobody is in the mood for quality family time.

Like tonight. We’re all somewhere else. The twins, Sebastian and Sawyer, look exhausted, probably from a tough lacrosse practice. Ella looks preoccupied. Dad looks weary.

“You couldn’t find a shirt in that big closet of yours?” my father asks politely. Since Ella joined our family, Callum Royal has perfected the Disapproving Dad look. He never cared about what we did or wore before, but now he’s all over us.

I glance down at my bare chest, then shrug. “Want me to go up and find one?”

He shakes his head. “No, you’ve kept us waiting long enough. Sit, Easton.”

I sit. We’re eating out on the patio that overlooks the huge, kidney-shaped pool. It’s a warm night, and the breeze is nice. The table feels kind of empty with just the five of us, though. It’s weird now that both Gid and Reed are gone.

“Looking a little pale there,” Sawyer jokes. Despite being the younger twin, he always leads; Seb once said it’s to make Sawyer feel better for being born last. Seb’s quiet but has a wicked sense of humor.

Seb smirks. “It’s his pecs. He’s been skipping Chest Day, so he looks pale and small.”

“You little shits. I’ll show you who’s small and weak.” Grinning, I rise halfway out of my chair and shake my fist at the two twerps. “I’ve crapped out logs bigger than you.”

“Yeah, well, there’s two of us and—”

“All right, that’s enough,” Dad hastily intercedes before Sawyer can give us a rundown of the twins’ bowel movements. “Food’s getting cold.”

The mention of food is enough to divert our attention. Our housekeeper, Sandra, prepared roasted potatoes, garlic carrots, and a shit ton of barbecue-sauce-laden ribs. The twins and I dig in like the animals we are, while Dad and Ella take their time, chatting with each other as they eat.

“…chance you’ll have to testify at Steve’s trial.”

I’m not paying much attention, so when the conversation shifts toward Steve O’Halloran, I’m caught off-guard. These days, Dad goes out of his way not to bring up Steve when Ella’s around.

At her seat, Ella’s back goes stiffer than the flagpole on Astor Park Prep’s front lawn. “I thought the lawyers said Dinah’s testimony would be enough.” Dinah is Steve’s shrew of a wife, which makes her Ella’s shrew of a stepmother.

“Most likely, you won’t be called to the stand,” Dad assures her. “But when I spoke to the DA on the phone this morning, he mentioned it’s still a possibility. I only bring it up because I don’t want you to be blindsided if it happens.”

The tension doesn’t leave Ella’s body. I don’t blame her for being upset. The twins are wearing identical expressions of disgust.

Steve was charged with murder months ago, but he hasn’t spent a second behind bars. He paid his five-million-dollar bond, surrendered his passport and flight license, and, unfortunately, has abided by the terms of his pretrial release. Money and good lawyers mean you don’t serve a day until you’re convicted and maybe not even then. Dad’s lawyer says that as long as the judge is convinced he’s not a flight risk, he’s free as a stinkin’ bird.

The whole innocent-until-proven-guilty thing is a crock of shit if you ask me. We all know he’s guilty, and it drives us nuts that Steve’s not in prison for what he did. Not just killing a woman, but also not stepping forward when the cops tried to pin it on Reed.

Granted, the victim was Brooke Davidson, the evil viper who was trying to take down my family, but still. Brooke was a bitch, but she didn’t deserve to die.

“Hey, Dad?” Sawyer says warily.

Dad shifts his gaze to his youngest son. “What is it?”

“When Steve’s trial starts…” Sawyer pauses for a second. “Are they gonna bring up all that stuff about Steve and, um…” He trails off and closes his mouth, deciding not to finish that sentence.

Nobody else finishes it for him, but everyone’s expressions become strained, including mine. Seb reaches over and squeezes his brother’s shoulder. My dad takes Ella’s hand in his. She closes her eyes and takes a few calming breaths.

I watch my family as they all try to get a grip on their emotions.

I hate thinking about my mother these days. After Steve killed Brooke, it came out that Mom cheated on Dad with Ella’s dad. That’s some incestuous shit right there.

Thing is, I can’t even be angry at Mom for cheating. Dad was hardly ever around. He was too focused on Atlantic Aviation, the family business, and while he was away for long periods of time, Steve poisoned Mom’s mind with ideas that Dad was cheating on her.

But I am angry at her for dying, for taking those pills. Reed says there’s no way it could’ve been the same pills I was stashing in my room, but he doesn’t know for sure. I was hooked on Adderall and oxy back then. My prescription was completely legal at first, but when I needed more, there was a ready supply at school. My Adderall supplier suggested I take some oxy as a way to escape. He was right. It helped a lot, but the high didn’t last.

When Mom found my stash and threatened to send me to rehab if I didn’t straighten out, I promised to right my ship. And I didn’t question what she did with the pills. I handed over the bottles because I was a fifteen-year-old who would’ve cut off his arm if she’d asked. That’s how much I adored her.

Chances are, I killed my mother. Reed claims I didn’t, but of course he’s gonna say that. He’d never tell me straight out that I killed her. Or rather, my addiction did. Is it any wonder that I’m a self-destructive screw-up?

I’m off the pills now. Mom’s OD scared the shit out of me and I promised my older brothers I wouldn’t touch that junk anymore. But the addictions don’t go away. It means I have to feed the thirst in other, safer ways—booze, sex, and blood. Tonight, I think I’ll choose blood.

“Easton.” I find a worried Ella studying my face.

“What?” I ask, reaching for my water glass. The subject of conversation has shifted away from the trial, thank God. Dad and the twins are now engaged in an animated conversation about soccer, of all things. We’ve never been a soccer family. Sometimes, I wonder if the twins are even Royals. They play lacrosse, watch soccer, aren’t fans of fighting, and have zero interest in flying. That said, they have Mom’s features and the Royal blue eyes.

“You’re smiling,” Ella accuses.

“So? Smiling is bad?”

“It’s one of your bloodthirsty smiles.” She sneaks a peek across the table to make sure Dad isn’t paying attention to us. Then she hisses, “You’re fighting tonight, aren’t you?”

I drag my tongue across my bottom lip. “Oh yeah.”

“Oh, East. Please don’t. It’s too dangerous.” She presses her lips together in concern, and I know she’s remembering the time Reed got stabbed at one of those fights.

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