Page 20


Ellie places her hands on her slim hips, that massive emeraldand-diamond ring nearly blinding me as it catches the light. This is not your big sister, that ring seems to remind me, this is a future queen, which means she’s going to make you wear that ugly hat.
Sure enough, the corners of Ellie’s mouth turn down. “It’s tradition,” she says. “The big silly hats. Haven’t you seen My Fair Lady?”
“I have,” I tell her, moving over to the bed to poke at the thing she calls a “hat” but I think might actually be a papier-mâché rendering of the Loch Ness monster. “She wore a pretty hat,” I remind Ellie. “Much like you are wearing a pretty hat. This”—I flick the furled brim of the hat—“is not a pretty hat. In fact, it’s not a hat at all. I think someone just threw some velvet and tulle together, and dyed everything lake-monster green.”
“That hat is a one-of-a-kind piece,” Ellie informs me. “Made especially for you by Lady Alice Crenshaw, who is not only my friend but whose family has been making chapeaux for the royal family for centuries, Daisy.”
“Okay, I was going to listen to you about this, but then you said ‘chapeaux,’ and my brain shut down with how pretentious that was.”
Ellie closes her eyes for a second. In another life, she would have already started yelling. The lake monster comment would’ve done it. But that was a different Ellie, one who didn’t feel watched every second of her life.
That thought makes me feel a little ashamed of the fit I’m throwing over something as silly as a hat, a feeling that only gets stronger when Ellie walks over to the bed, picking up the hat and studying it with critical eyes. “I told Alice you had reddish hair now, so she picked out this color especially for you.”
With that, she crosses over to plop the hat on my head. For something that appears to mostly be made of fluff and feathers, it’s surprisingly heavy. Ellie tugs at the netting, trying to perk up some of the feathers, frowning. “It would look better if you weren’t scowling, Daisy,” she finally says, and I step away from her, making shooing motions with my hands.
“It’s hard not to make a face when you’re wearing something like this,” I remind her, but when I go to look in the mirror, I can admit that hat isn’t too . . . all right—it’s still really, really bad—but it does look a little like the stuff those girls wear in the blogs Isabel showed me. At least I fit in. And it matches my dress.
That had been waiting for me in a garment bag when I’d gotten up this morning, and I’d cringed as I’d pulled down the zipper, sure I was going to see something completely boring with a high neck and long sleeves and no personality at all.
But the dress is actually really pretty. It’s green, like my hat, with cap sleeves, a nipped-in waist, and a fuller skirt, almost like something out of the fifties. The little white gloves that go with it just add to the effect, and it’s just different enough not to be boring.
Maybe Glynnis has better taste than I thought.
The cars are coming to get all of us in less than an hour now, taking us the thirty minutes or so south to the racing grounds. Apparently, this particular horse race is super fancy and, according to Glynnis, “a vital part of the social calendar for the summer.”
The most vital thing I’d had on my social calendar this summer had been Key West, finishing up my summer reading for school, and maybe visiting the new pool they’d built at the Hibiscus Club, the sort of cut-rate country club we belonged to in Perdido.
Instead, I’m wearing a Disney Villain hat and about to go watch a bunch of horses.
With a bunch of cute guys.
I’d seen a few of the “Royal Wreckers” this morning at breakfast. Sherbet, of course, then the two guys whose actual names I couldn’t remember. Spiffy and Dons were their nicknames, but I dare you to say the name “Spiffy” out loud with a straight face. So I hadn’t talked much to any of them, and I hadn’t seen Miles or Seb, either.
Remembering last night makes my stomach give a little nervous twist, and I glance over at Ellie. She’s staring in the mirror, fidgeting with her own hat, and while I really don’t want to get into the whole Seb thing, it suddenly occurs to me that he might mention it today, and that it would be way worse if El hears it from him first.
“Soooo,” I start, and Ellie immediately spins away from the mirror, blue eyes wide.
“Oh god, what happened?” she asks, and I hold up both hands.
“How did you know I was going to tell you that something happened? Maybe I was just about to lead into how pretty that shade of pink looks on you. Because it does, by the way, look really nice with your skin tone, and—”
Now it’s Ellie’s turn to hold up her hands. “Daisy . . .” she says. “No. I have been your sister for your entire life, and whenever you start with the ‘soooo’ thing, it’s usually followed by ‘I did something catastrophic.’”
Okay, that’s just offensive, both that she knows my tells while hers are getting harder and harder to read, and that she thinks I do catastrophic things. Catastrophic things happen to me, but it’s not like I’m the cause. Last night was totally a case in point.
“Technically, the catastrophe was Seb’s,” I say now, and that pretty pink blush Ellie had been rocking thanks to her outfit drains right out of her face.
“Seb,” she repeats flatly, and I launch into the sordid tale of “Seb Drunk in My Bedroom,” hoping if I tell it quickly enough and with enough of a blasé attitude, she won’t freak out.
“Anyway,” I sum up, “then that Henry Higgins guy showed up and got him, and my brush with debauched royalty was over.”
Ellie’s perfect brow creases. “Henry Higgins?”
Sighing, I lean against the bedpost, crossing one foot in front of the other. “Honestly, El, we were just talking about My Fair Lady. That snooty dude. Miles.”
I don’t get into the part where he implied I was trying to trap Seb with my wily American girly parts and how I called him a snob before getting lost and learning about knife paintings. Or painting knives? And the whole confetti bowl thing. Does El know about confetti bowls? I’m just about to ask her when she shakes her head, sighing.
“Talk about baptism by fire,” she says, and I nod.
“I can see the tabloids now. Pics of Seb on my floor, me in all my pajamas, headlines like ‘Sleeping Beauty’ . . .”
El makes a noise that would be a snort if soon-to-be princesses did that sort of thing. Then she frowns, tilting her head at me. “All of your pajamas?”
Laughing, I shake my head. “You don’t want to know.”
There’s a discreet knock at the door—Glynnis, letting us know it’s time to head downstairs—and after giving myself a last look in the mirror, I tug at my tentacles and start following Ellie out of the room.
But before we open the door, she turns to me, one gloved hand resting on my arm. “You’re going to be fine,” she tells me, and then she delivers it: the patented Ellie Winters, soon to be Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Rothesay Smile.
In other words, the fakest smile known to man.
And suddenly, I’m thinking that wearing a monster on my head might not be my biggest problem today.
Chapter 14
The racetrack isn’t far from Sherbourne Castle, so I haven’t managed to get over my severe case of tummy butterflies by the time we arrive.