Royals Page 1

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Series: Royals #1

Genres: Young Adult , Romance

Loading...

Chapter 1

“Some old lady just called me the c-word.”

I glance up from the magazine I’m paging through. Isabel Alonso, my best friend and fellow cashier at the Sur-N-Sav, leans back against her register and snaps her gum. Her dark hair is caught up in a messy braid, black against the green of her apron.

“Just now?” I ask. The store is more or less deserted, which has been the case since the giant Walmart opened up on the other side of town, so Isabel and I are the only cashiers working today. I haven’t had anyone in my line in over an hour, hence the magazine. Still, I can’t believe I was absorbed enough to miss something actually exciting—if super rude—happening.

Isabel rolls her eyes. “It’s my fault the price of sour cream went up.”

“That seems fair,” I tell her with a solemn nod. “You are a fabulous dairy heiress, after all.”

Isabel turns back to her register, punching buttons at random. “We have got to get new jobs, Daze. This is humiliating.”

I don’t disagree, but when you live in a small town in north Florida, your options are kind of limited. I’d wanted to get a job at the library last fall, but that hadn’t worked out—no funding—and one summer of helping out at Vacation Bible School had cured me of the desire to work with little kids, which meant babysitting or working part time at the local preschool was out. So it was all Sur-N-Sav all the time.

Although now, looking at my phone where it’s propped against the register, I see that my time at Sur-N-Sav is up.

“Ah, three o’clock, the most beautiful time of day,” I say happily, and Isabel groans. “Not fair!”

“Hey, I’ve been here since seven,” I remind her. “You wanna leave early—”

“You have to take the early shift,” she finishes, waving a hand at me. “Okay, Mrs. Miller, got it.”

Mrs. Miller is the manager of the Sur-N-Sav, and Isabel and I have gotten very used to her lectures over the past year.

Sighing, Isabel leans next to her register, chin propped in her hand. Her nails are painted three different shades of green, and a simple beaded bracelet slides down one slender wrist. “Four more weeks,” she says, and I repeat our favorite mantra.

“Four more weeks.”

At the end of June, Isabel and I are bidding a not-so-fond farewell to the Sur-N-Sav life and heading out to Key West for Key Con, then plan to spend a week bumming around the town. Isabel’s brother lives there with his wife and Isabel’s ridiculously cute baby nephew, so we have a free (and parent-approved) place to stay. To say my entire life is revolving around this trip might be something of an understatement. Not only will we get our geek on, but we will also get to do fun Key West things. Snorkeling, the Hemingway House, all the key lime pie a gal can hold . . . yes, this trip is going to make my entire summer, and Isa and I have been planning it for almost a year now, as soon as the con was announced. Our favorite author, Ash Bentley, is going to be there talking about her Finnigan Sparks series, plus there are at least twenty different panels Isabel and I want to check out—on everything from women in space operas to cosplay design. It is geek heaven, and we are beyond ready.

“You need to come over this weekend so we can start planning outfits,” Isabel says, straightening up and punching random buttons on the register as Whitney Houston wails about the greatest love of all over the sound system. “I still haven’t decided if I’m cosplaying as Miranda from Finnegan and the Falcon or Jezza from Finnegan’s Moon.”

“Ben would probably prefer Jezza,” I say. Ben is Isa’s boyfriend, and has been for roughly eleventy billion years. Okay, since eighth grade. “Lot less clothes on Jezza.”

Isa screws up her face, thinking. “True, but Ben’s not even going to be there, and I don’t know if I’m ready to show a quarter of my butt cheeks to all of Key West.”

“Fair,” I acknowledge. “Besides, being Miranda means you get to wear a purple wig.”

She points a finger at me. “Yes! Miranda it is, then. Who are you going to go as?”

Smiling, I start shutting down my register. “Cosplay is your thing,” I remind her, “so I’m just going as me. Boring Girl in T-Shirt and Jeans.”

“You are a disappointment to me in every way,” Isa replies, and I shake my head.

The doors slide open, another senior citizen shopper strolling in as I finish with my register and take the cash drawer to Mrs. Miller’s office. At most grocery stores, clerks count the money themselves, but years of working with teenage employees has given Mrs. Miller trust issues, and to be honest, I’m happy to leave that chore to someone else anyway.

That done, I make my way across the store, noticing as I pass the magazine racks lining the register lanes that a bunch of them have been turned around, the ads on their backs, rather than the covers, facing the customer.

This has to be Isabel’s doing. I walk up to a rack and turn the nearest backward magazine to face me. I see a quick flash of blond hair and bright teeth, and then my eyes land on the headline, printed in bold yellow script: “TEN THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT ELLIE WINTERS!”

I wonder if any of the ten things would surprise me. I doubt it, though.

My sister has lived a life pretty free from the scandalous, almost as if she knew she’d end up on the cover of magazines. I’m almost tempted to flip through, but then decide that “A,” it would be weird and “B,” Isabel did go to the trouble of trying to hide the magazines from me in the first place.

“It was nothing bad this time,” she calls out now. “Just figured you didn’t need to see!”

Giving her a thumbs-up, I continue toward the door at the far side of the store.

My stuff is in the break room, a truly tragic space made up of orange walls, green plastic chairs, and a scratched laminate table. At some point, someone had carved “BECKY LOVES JOSH” into the top of it, and every time I sat there on my break, reading or studying, I wondered what became of Becky and Josh. Were they still in love? Had Becky been as insanely bored here as I was?

Although, hey, at least Becky was never confronted with pictures of her sister on the front of tabloids.

Or being in the tabloids herself for that matter.

Ugh.

The whole prom debacle is still this mix of anger and hurt, a thorny ball lodged right in my chest, and thinking about it is like poking a sore tooth. You forget just how much the tooth aches until you focus on it, and then suddenly it’s all you can think about.

Which means I can’t risk thinking about it now, or I might start crying in the break room at the Sur-N-Sav, and there is nothing on earth more depressing than that scenario. That’s like movie-where-the-dog-dies levels of pathos, so yeah, not doing that.

Instead, I heft my beat-up patchwork bag onto my shoulder and head out the door.

The blinding brightness and heat of the late-May afternoon is intense as I walk outside and into the parking lot, and I squint, reaching in my bag for my sunglasses, my mind already on what I’m going to do for the rest of the afternoon. Mostly, it involves draping myself over the AC vent in my room and reading the new manga I picked up from the bookstore yesterday.

“Dais.”

And there’s that sore tooth.

Great.

Michael is leaning against one of the yellow-painted concrete pylons in front of the store, one ankle crossed in front of the other, dark hair falling in his eyes. He’s probably been practicing that pose. Michael Dorset is a champion leaner, one of the best, really. In the Olympics for Cute Boys, he’d take the gold in the Hot Lean every time.

Next