Home > Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(7)

Fallen Heir (The Royals #4)(7)
Author: Erin Watt

I tug on a loose T-shirt and duck into the upstairs office that I share with my brothers and Ella, well aware that I’m acting like a desperate loser. It’s not like I have to make photocopies. This isn’t the olden days. I can just take pics of the calc notes using the scanner app on my phone and message them directly to Hartley. I have her number now, after all.

But nope. I make actual copies, which I staple together and shove in a file folder I find in one of the desk drawers.

“Where are you going?”

Ella intercepts me as I’m leaving the office. Her blue eyes are narrowed, her tone thick with suspicion.

“I’m dropping off some homework for a friend.” I hold up the folder, then flip it open so that my nosy stepsister can see there’s real schoolwork in there.

“At eight o’clock at night?”

I mock gasp. “Eight o’clock?! Holy fuck! It’s so late! We should turn in!”

“Stop yelling at me,” Ella mutters, but she looks like she’s fighting back laughter. Eventually, it comes out as a snorted giggle. “Okay, I’m being ridiculous.”

“Yup.”

She squeezes my arm. “Just don’t go to the docks afterward, all right? Promise me that.”

“I promise,” I say dutifully, and then I dart off before she can keep bugging me about it.

The drive to Hartley’s house doesn’t take long at all; Bayview isn’t that big. The Wrights live inland, in that plantation mansion from the article picture. It’s a nice house. Not as big as mine, but then again, the Wrights aren’t the Royals.

I’m about a hundred yards away from the Wright joint when a familiar black Rover careens around a sharp curve. I swerve onto the shoulder and lay on the horn. Sawyer waves merrily at me from the driver’s seat, while Sebastian holds up his fingers in the shape of devil horns.

Those two assholes. In the backseat is Lauren, who I guess lives around here.

I park on the curb in front of Hartley’s home. My palms are weirdly clammy as I hop out of my truck, so I wipe them on the front of my ripped jeans. Then I wonder if maybe I should’ve changed my clothes before coming here. Showing up in a threadbare T-shirt and jeans with holes in them doesn’t exactly make a good impression, especially since I might run into Hartley’s folks.

On the other hand, what do I care about impressing Hartley or her family? I want to bone down with the girl, not ask her to marry me.

It’s Hartley’s mom who opens the front door after I ring the bell. I recognize her from the picture. “Hello,” she greets me, her voice slightly chilly. “How can I help you?”

“Hi. Uh…” I shift the file folder from one sweaty hand to the other. “I’m here to, uh…” Dammit. This was a stupid idea. I should’ve just texted her a pic of my abs or something. What kind of idiot shows up on someone’s doorstep unannounced—

No. Screw all this self-doubting. I’m Easton fucking Royal. What do I have to be insecure about?

So I clear my throat and speak again, this time clear and confident. “I’m here to see Hartley.”

Joanie Wright’s eyes widen. “Oh,” she squeaks, then nervously glances over her shoulder.

I can’t see who she’s looking at—is it Hartley? Is she standing out of sight mouthing for her mom to get rid of me?

Mrs. Wright turns back to me. “I’m sorry,” she says, and her tone has turned to ice again. “Hartley isn’t here. Who are you?”

“Easton Royal.” I hold up the folder. “I’ve got some math notes for her. Should I leave them with you?”

“No.”

“No?” I wrinkle my forehead. “Then what should I do with—”

I don’t get to finish that sentence.

Hartley’s mother slams the door in my face.

 

 

Chapter 4

 

 

Since I went to bed early and my body is ache-free because I didn’t fight, I actually wake up on time the next morning. For once, I’m able to drink a coffee and scarf down a bagel for breakfast. At school, I stop by Larry’s locker and slam my hand next to the lock. When it pops open, I shove the box of sneakers inside. Then I head for the locker room. I’m even uncharacteristically not late for our six a.m. practice. My teammates note this rare occasion by breaking out in applause when I stride in.

“Holy shit,” Larry exclaims. “It’s ten to six and Royal is here.”

Someone snickers. “Guess hell has frozen over.”

“Maybe he lost a bet,” someone else offers.

I roll my eyes and head for my locker. I spot Coach Lewis standing near the equipment room door, talking to a tall guy with a buzz cut.

Even though I’m ten minutes early, I’m still the last one to show. Coach claps his hands when he sees me and says, “Good. We’re all here.”

I glance over at Connor Babbage, who’s leaning against his locker, and give a discreet nod toward Coach’s new friend. Connor shrugs as if to say no idea who that is.

Coach steps forward. “Men, this is Brandon Mathis—he just transferred to Astor from Bellfield Prep. He’s our new quarterback.”

Everyone in the room—myself, included—exhales in relief. Nobody even spares a consolatory look at the two sophomore backups. They’d already proven to be absolutely useless, and they look equally relieved by the news.

“Mathis,” Coach barks. “You got anything to say to your team?”

The new guy smiles at everyone. Tall, decent looking, and friendly? I can already hear the Astor girls’ panties dropping to the floor. “Just that I’m looking forward to getting to know y’all and taking home that trophy.”

Several players nod their approval. Me, I’m still sizing Mathis up.

Coach’s gaze shifts in my direction. “What about you, Royal? You good with this change-up?”

Now that Reed has graduated, I’m the unspoken leader of the defense. If I welcome Mathis, the other guys will follow my lead. Coach knows this.

“Aw, Coach, look at you, taking my lil ol’ feelings into consideration.” I wipe away a nonexistent tear. “I’m touched.”

“I don’t give a flying hoot about your feelings, kid. I just know how difficult you Royals can be.” He arches his bushy eyebrows. “But you’re not going to be difficult today, are you, Royal? You’re going to welcome your new quarterback with open arms, isn’t that right?”

I pretend to think it over.

“Royal,” he warns.

A grin breaks free. “Nah, I’m not gonna be difficult.” I spread my arms wide and beam at Mathis. “Come in here for a hug, big guy.”

A few of my teammates snicker.

Mathis looks startled. “Um. Yeah. I’m not much of a hugger.”

My arms drop to my sides. “Dammit, Coach, I welcomed him with open arms—literally—and he rejected me.”

Babbage busts out with laughter.

Coach sighs. “It’s a figure of speech, kid. Just shake his damn hand.”

Laughing, I step forward and slap my hand against Mathis’s. “Good to have you on board,” I tell him. And I mean it. We desperately need a QB that can throw the damned ball.

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