These Royals will ruin you…
The much anticipated next book in the Royals series
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"Where were you between eight p.m. and eleven p.m. tonight?"
"How long were you sleeping with your father's girlfriend?"
"Why did you kill her, Reed? Did she make you mad? Threaten to out the affair to your dad?"
I've watched enough cop shows to know that you keep your mouth shut when you're in a police interrogation room. Either that, or you just utter the four magic words-I want my lawyer.
Which is exactly what I've been doing for the past hour.
If I were a minor, these assholes wouldn't dream of questioning me without a parent or an attorney present. But I'm eighteen, so I guess they think I'm fair game. Or maybe that I'm stupid enough to answer their leading questions without my lawyer.
Detectives Cousins and Schmidt don't seem to care about my last name. For some reason, I find that kind of refreshing. I've gotten a free pass my entire life because I'm a Royal. If I get in trouble at school, Dad writes a check, and my sins are forgotten. For as long as I can remember, girls have lined up to hop into bed with me so they can tell all their friends they bagged a Royal.
Not that I want girls lining up for me. There's only one girl I care about these days-Ella Harper. It absolutely kills me that she had to watch me get dragged out of the house in handcuffs.
Brooke Davidson is dead.
I still can't wrap my head around it. My father's platinum-blond, gold-digging girlfriend was very much alive when I left the penthouse earlier.
But I'm not telling these detectives that. I'm not an idiot. They'll twist everything I say.
Frustrated with my silence, Cousins slams both his hands on the metal table between us.
"Answer me, you little shit!"
Under the table, my fists start to curl. I force my fingers to relax. This is the last place I should lose my temper.
His partner, a quiet woman named Teresa Schmidt, shoots him a warning look. "Reed," she says in a soft voice, "we can't help you unless you cooperate. And we want to help you here."
I arch a brow. Really? Good cop/bad cop? I guess they've watched the same TV shows that I have.
"Guys," I say carelessly, "I'm starting to wonder if you have hearing issues or something." Smirking, I cross my arms over my chest. "I've already asked for my lawyer, which means you're supposed to wait until he arrives to ask questions."
"We can ask you questions," Schmidt says, "and you can answer them. There's no law against that. You can also volunteer information. For instance, we can move this process along if you explain things like why you have blood on your shirt."
I resist the urge to clamp a hand against my side. "I'll wait until Halston Grier gets here, but thanks for your input."
Silence falls over the small room.
Cousins is visibly grinding his molars. Schmidt just sighs. Then both detectives scrape back their chairs and leave the room without another word.
Except, even though they've clearly given up on me, they still take their sweet-ass time granting my request. For the next hour, I sit alone in the room, wondering how the hell my life got to this point. I'm not a saint and have never claimed to be one. I've gotten into my share of fights. I'm ruthless when I need to be.
But . . . I'm not this guy. The guy who gets dragged out of his own house in handcuffs. The guy who has to watch fear fill his girlfriend's eyes as he's hauled into the back of a police cruiser.
By the time the door swings open again, claustrophobia has set in, spurring me to be ruder than I should.
"Took you long enough," I snap at my father's lawyer.
The fifty-something gray-haired man is dressed in a suit, despite the late hour. He gives me a rueful smile. "Well. Looks like somebody is in high spirits."
"Where's Dad?" I demand, peering past Grier's shoulder.
"He's in the waiting room. He can't be in here."
Grier shuts the door and walks over to the table. He sets his briefcase on it and unbuckles the brass latches. "Because there are no restrictions against parents testifying against their children. Testimonial privilege extends only to spouses."
For the first time since I was arrested, I feel queasy. Testifying? This isn't going to go to court, is it? How far are these cops planning on taking this bullshit?
"Reed, take a breath."
My stomach twists. Dammit. I hate that I revealed even a trace of helplessness in front of this man. I don't show weakness. Ever. The only person I've ever been able to lower my guard around is Ella. That girl has the power to smash through my barriers and actually see me. The real me, and not the cold, callous ass that the rest of the world sees.
Grier pulls out a yellow legal pad and a gold fountain pen. He settles in the chair across from mine.
"I'm going to make this go away," he promises. "But first I need to know what we're dealing with here. From what I've managed to squeeze out of the officers in charge of the investigation, there's security footage of you entering the O'Halloran penthouse at eight forty-five tonight. That same footage shows you leaving about twenty minutes later."
My gaze darts around the room, searching for cameras or recording equipment. There's no mirror in here, so I don't think there's anyone watching us from some shadowy second room. Or at least I hope not.
"Everything we say in here is between us," Grier assures me when he notices my wary expression. "They can't record us. Lawyer-client privileges and all that."
I release a slow breath. "Yeah. I was at the penthouse earlier. But I didn't fucking kill her."
Grier nods. "All right." He jots something down on his notepad. "Let's go back even earlier. I want you to start from the beginning. Tell me about you and Brooke Davidson. No detail is too small. I need to know everything."
I swallow a sigh. Awesome. This is going to be fun.
The Royal boys have rooms in the south wing, whereas their dad's suites are on the other side of the mansion, so I hook a right at the top of the stairs and hurry across the gleaming hardwood toward Easton's door. He doesn't answer at my soft knock. I swear, that boy could sleep through a hurricane. I knock a bit louder. When I hear nothing, I push the door open to find Easton sprawled face down on the bed.
I march over and shake his shoulder. He moans something.
I shake him again, panic bubbling in my throat. How is he still sound asleep? How had he slept through all the commotion that just happened downstairs?
"Easton!" I burst out. "Wake up!"
"What is it?" he grumbles, one eyelid slitting open. "Shit, is it time to go to practice?"
He rolls all the way over, pulling the blankets with him and revealing a lot more skin than I need to see. On the floor I find a pair of discarded sweatpants and toss them on the bed. They land on his head.
"Get up," I beg.
"Because the sky is falling!"
He blinks groggily. "Huh?"
"Shit's bad!" I yell, then force myself to take a deep breath, trying to calm down. It doesn't work. "Just meet me in Reed's room, okay?" I snap.
He must hear the uncontrollable anxiety in my voice, because he tumbles out of bed without delay. I see another flash of bare skin before I duck out the door.
Rather than go to Reed's room, I sprint across the wide hallway toward my own bedroom. This house is ridiculously large, ridiculously beautiful, but everyone inside of it is so messed up. Including me.
I guess I really am a Royal.
But no, I'm really not. The man downstairs is a glaring reminder of that. Steve O'Halloran. My not-so-dead father.
A wave of emotion sweeps over me, threatening to buckle my knees and send me into a bout of hysterics. I feel terrible about just leaving him down there. I didn't even introduce myself before spinning on my heel and running upstairs. Granted, Callum Royal did the same thing. He was so racked with concern for Reed that he simply blurted out, "I can't deal with this right now. Steve, wait here for me." Despite my guilt, I push Steve into a tiny box in the back of my mind and slap a steel lid on top. I can't think about him right now. My focus needs to be on Reed.
In my room, I waste no time sliding my backpack out from under my huge bed. I always keep it in a place where I can easily access it. I unzip the pack and sigh in relief when I see the leather pouch that holds the monthly cash payments I get from Callum.
When I first moved here, Callum promised to pay me ten thousand dollars a month as long as I didn't try to run. As much as I hated the Royal mansion at the beginning, it wasn't long before I grew to love it. These days, I can't imagine living anywhere else-I'd stay even if I didn't have the cash incentive. But because of my years of living without any money-and my generally suspicious nature-I never told Callum to stop.
Now I'm eternally grateful for that incentive. There's enough in my bag to sustain me for months, probably longer.
I shoulder the backpack and then hurry toward Reed's door at the same time Easton emerges into the hall. His dark hair is sticking up in a hundred different directions, but at least he's got pants on now.
"What the fuck is going on?" he demands as he follows me into his older brother's bedroom.
I throw open the doors of Reed's walk-in closet, my gaze frantically darting around the large space. I find what I'm looking for on a low shelf in the back.
"Ella?" Easton prompts.
I don't answer him. He frowns as he watches me drag a navy-blue suitcase across the cream-colored carpet.
"Ella! Dammit, will you just talk to me?"
The frown turns into wide-eyed gawking when I start throwing stuff into the suitcase. Some T-shirts, Reed's favorite green hoodie, jeans, a couple of tanks. What else would he need . . . Um, boxers, socks, a belt-
"Why are you packing Reed's clothes?" Easton is practically shouting at me now, and his sharp tone snaps me out of my panic.
The worn gray T-shirt in my hands falls to the carpet. My heartbeat accelerates as the gravity of the situation hits me again.
"Reed was arrested for killing Brooke," I blurt out. "Your dad's at the police station with him."
Easton's jaw drops. "What the hell?" he exclaims. And then, "The cops came when we were at dinner?"
"No, after we got back from D.C."
Everyone minus Reed had gone to D.C. for dinner earlier. That's how the Royals roll. They're so loaded that Callum has multiple private planes at his disposal. It probably helps that he owns a company that designs airplanes, but it's still ridiculously surreal. The fact that we took a plane from North Carolina to D.C. tonight-to go for dinner-is crazy rich. Reed stayed behind because his side hurt.
He'd been stabbed at the docks the other night and claimed that his pain meds made him too woozy to go with us.
But he hadn't been too woozy to go see Brooke . . .
God. What had he done tonight?
"It happened about ten minutes ago," I add weakly. "Didn't you hear your dad screaming at the detective?"
"I didn't hear a goddamn thing. I . . . ah . . ." Shame flickers in his blue eyes. "I kinda pounded a mickey of vodka when I was at Wade's tonight. Came home and crashed right afterward."
I don't even have the energy to lecture him about his drinking. Easton's addiction issues are serious, but Reed's murder issues are a million times more urgent at the moment.
I curl my fingers into a fist. If Reed were here right now, I'd punch him-both for lying to me and for getting hauled away by the police.
Easton finally breaks the stunned silence. "Do you think he did it?"
"No." But as confident as I sound, inwardly I'm shaken up.
When I got back from dinner, I saw that Reed's stitches were pulled, and he had blood on his stomach. I keep those incriminating tidbits from Easton, though. I trust him, but he's hardly ever sober. I need to protect Reed first and foremost, and who knows what might come out of Easton's mouth when he's drunk or high.
Swallowing hard, I refocus on that task-protecting Reed. I hurriedly toss a few more items of clothing into the suitcase and zip it up.
"You haven't told me why you're packing," Easton says in frustration.
"In case we need to run."
"Me and Reed." I bolt to my feet and race over to Reed's dresser to raid his sock drawer. "I want to be prepared just in case, okay?"
That's the one thing I excel at-being prepared to run. I don't know if it'll come down to that. Maybe Reed and Callum will stroll through the front doors and announce, "All fixed! Charges were dropped!" Maybe Reed will be denied bail or bond or whatever the hell it's called, and won't come home at all.
But in the event that neither of those things happens, I want to be ready to skip town in a heartbeat. My backpack is always stocked with everything I need, but Reed's not a planner like I am. He's impulsive. Doesn't always think before he acts-
Before he kills?
I shove the horrible thought aside. No. Reed couldn't have done what they're accusing him of.
"What are you guys yelling about?" a sleepy voice comes from Reed's doorway. "We can hear you all the way down the hall."
The sixteen-year-old Royal twins step into the room. Each one is wearing a blanket around his waist. Does no one in this family believe in pajamas?
"Reed offed Brooke," Easton tells his brothers.
"Easton!" I say in outrage.
"What? I'm not supposed to tell my brothers that our other brother just got arrested for murder?"
Sawyer and Sebastian both hiss out a breath.
"Are you serious?" Sawyer demands.
"The cops just took him away," I whisper.
Easton looks a bit queasy. "And I'm just saying, they wouldn't have done that if they didn't have some kind of evidence against him. Maybe it's about the . . ." He draws a circle in front of his stomach.