Page 24


I snatch the paper back from Dad, swatting it with him as I do. We’re all in a parlor at Holyroodhouse, the Baird family palace in Edinburgh. We’ve been given our own suite of rooms, complete with two other parlors and three bedrooms, although we’re only using two of them. Ellie is still staying in her apartment in the city, but no more hotel for us. We’re being officially wedged into royal life.
Or we will be if all the headlines don’t lead to my banishment.
I know yesterday was a disaster, and while I apologized profusely to the Duchess of Argyll, there was no doubt that I’d been a major screwup. I’d spent last night reading the file Glynnis had made me, hoping that in the future, if I decided to run my mouth, I wouldn’t end up insulting one of Ellie’s future relatives.
Dad picks up another paper and turns it to face me. There, on the front page, is a huge picture from the race, blurry but brightly colored, my green hat and red hair especially standing out, as does the duchess’s yellow feathered hat. “FOR THE BIRDS!” the headline blares, then right under that, “ELLIE’S LITTLE SIS GIVES THE DISDAINFUL DUCHESS WHAT FOR!”
I glance over at Ellie, who leans forward from her spot next to me on the sofa, blond hair falling over her shoulders. I haven’t mentioned to El that I only said what I said defending her, mostly because I don’t want her to know that Alex’s aunt doesn’t like her. I mean, she probably already knows, but if she doesn’t, I don’t want to be the one to tell her.
“Glynnis is going to die,” she mutters, and I feel my face heat up as I study the photograph. You can’t really read the expression on my face due to the low-quality shot, but I’m standing there with my hand on my hip, something I don’t even remember doing, and the duchess is so ramrod straight, she looks like she might snap in half.
Dad turns the paper back to face him, snapping the pages. “Glynnis should be thrilled,” he tells Ellie. “This article is practically fawning all over Daisy.”
“What?” Ellie and I ask at the same time.
“No one’s ever liked Argie,” Seb says from his spot near the window. He’d been the one to show us to our rooms when we came into the palace today, which had surprised me. I was even more surprised that he was just . . . hanging out here, drinking tea, but he hadn’t shown any signs of leaving.
“Argie?” I repeat, then work out that that’s a nickname for the duchess. Probably not one anyone uses to her face.
“She’s the worst kind of snob,” Seb continues, stirring his tea. “Daisy giving her a right bollocking probably did her some good.”
“I didn’t . . . I don’t even know what that means,” I say, leaning back against the sofa. Everything in this room is done in shades of rose and gold, and I think every pillow, every lampshade, every drape has been weighted down with tassels. Outside the windows, the afternoon has gone dark and rainy.
Seb looks up from his tea and grins at me, a dimple flashing in his cheek. “It means you told her off. And there’s nothing the Scots love more than a mouthy lass.”
I wrinkle my nose, looking at the stack of papers in my dad’s lap.
How does Ellie stand it, that constant itch at the back of her brain that tells her people are talking about her, people are always talking about her, and that both the best and worst things she could ever hear about herself are just a few clicks away? How does that not make anyone insane?
There’s a brisk knock at the door to the sitting room, but before any of us can say anything, Glynnis is striding in. I’ve begun to realize she doesn’t ever walk anywhere. It’s all striding, marching, trooping . . . she was probably a heck of a general in a past life.
“Just the girl I was looking for!” she says brightly, but her eyes are laser-focused on me, and I swallow hard.
“Hi, Glynnis,” I say, waggling my fingers.
Her smile doesn’t drop as she addresses the entire room. “So, bit of a rocky start, but we’re here now, and I think course correction should be easy enough.”
Course correction doesn’t exactly sound great, but I guess it’s better than what I’d been expecting, which was something like, “Some time in the dungeons will do wonders for Daisy’s attitude!”
“If I could just steal Daisy for a wee bit . . .” Glynnis continues, holding her thumb and forefinger apart.
“Sure,” I say, but it comes out like a squeak, and to my surprise, El gets to her feet, too.
“Mind if I come with?” she asks, and I shoot her a look of gratitude. I don’t really think Glynnis is going to imprison and/or eat me, but having Ellie along for whatever is about to happen seems nice.
“Bring them back in one piece!” Dad calls cheerfully, opening another paper with my face on the front. Then he frowns, thinking. “Well, two pieces. Their two separate bodies, that is.” He waves a hand. “You know what I mean.”
“Of course,” Glynnis says through a tight smile, and I have to roll my lips inward not to giggle.
Ellie doesn’t look nearly as amused, sighing a bit as she steps closer to me, and the two of us follow Glynnis out of the room.
“Are we going to the—” I whisper, but Ellie cuts me off with one lifted hand.
“You don’t even know what I was going ask.”
We’re going down some stairs now, big, wide stone ones with shallow grooves in the center from hundreds of years’ worth of feet.
“You were going to make a joke about dungeons or drawing and quartering. Something weird. Something Dad would say.”
“Both offensive and also kind of true,” I concede.
We pass under several portraits of Alex’s ancestors and finally come to a set of double doors carved with unicorns.
One of my favorite things about Scotland so far is that the unicorn is their national animal. You really can’t hate a country where that’s the case.
The doors open up into a well-lit room that’s a lot more spartan than the other rooms I’ve seen in the castle so far. There aren’t little knickknacks resting on every available surface, and there’s only one sofa and two chairs as opposed to a whole showroom floor’s worth of furniture.
One wall is completely lined with mirrors, and I catch a glimpse of myself, my hair very bright in this room that’s mostly gray and white.
And then I see the table against the window, clothes draped across it.
Skirts, sweaters, slacks, a few dresses that come kind of close to 1950s housewife . . .
“Oh my god,” I murmur. “Makeover montage.”
“What?” Ellie asks, walking over to the table.
But it’s Glynnis I turn to. “Makeover montage, right? This is the part where you give me a bunch of conservative clothes, maybe fix my hair, some upbeat song plays, and at the end, I’m gonna look at myself in this mirror”—I walk to the back of the room, reaching out to touch the glass and widening my eyes, lips parting—“and I say something like, ‘Is that . . . me?’ And then everyone claps and tells me I look great, and I do look great, but deep inside, I’m afraid something within me has irrevocably changed.”
I turn, and Glynnis and Ellie both stare at me.
“Have neither of you ever seen movies?” I ask, putting a hand on one hip.
“It’s just new clothes, Daisy,” Ellie finally says, and I roll my eyes, going to stand next to her.