Page 7


“By reading trashy royal gossip websites?” I ask, blowing on the surface of my orange blossom tea.
“By reading trashy royal gossip websites,” Isabel confirms, eyes still glued to the screen in front of her. “It’s a sacrifice, but that’s what I’m willing to do for our friendship, Dais.”
“You do go above and beyond,” I reply, rolling my eyes. I try to go back to the multiple-choice test in front of me, but after a few seconds of staring at the same vocabulary words, I glance back over our screens. “Anything about me?”
Isabel shakes her head, black hair sliding over her shoulders. “Not that I’ve seen, but I haven’t checked Crown Town.”
“Please think about the words you just said, then ask yourself how you feel about them coming out of your mouth.”
Isabel flips me off, her other hand clicking something on her keyboard. “There are tons of these blogs. Some of them are about all the various royals in the world. There are, like, really serious ones, like Royal Watch and Moments of the Monarchies.”
She turns her laptop so I can see the page. This is Royal Watch, and there’s a giant Union Jack across the top. Underneath, I can see a few tasteful pictures of the English royal family.
“Those are mostly run by Americans,” Isabel tells me, and tilts her computer so she can click something else.
“Then there’s Prattle, a magazine about posh people for posh people. You know, ‘What Hotel Has the Best Concierge?’ and ‘Which of Your Family Servants Are You Allowed to Snog?’—that kind of thing.”
“Charming,” I mutter, taking in the giant type of the title and the picture of a frowning aristocrat holding a cocktail.
“But then there’s stuff like Off with Their Heads and Crown Town, and those are the trashy ones,” Isabel finishes, turning her laptop back toward her.
“Which makes them more fun?” I guess, and Isabel shrugs.
“I wish I could say no, but yeah, those are the ones I’ve bookmarked. Guess Ellie was right that with your family being in Florida and the rest of the royals making plenty of headlines in Scotland, no one cares all that much.”
She meets my gaze, eyebrows drawn together. “Is that good or bad?”
“It’s good,” I say, relief turning the words into a sigh. For all that Ellie had claimed that nothing much would change right away, I hadn’t actually believed her. But it’s been over two weeks since the engagement announcement, and while that was a big deal, the spotlight is still firmly on Ellie and Alexander.
“People love Ellie, by the way,” Isabel tells me, moving her straw up and down in her cup to poke at the ice. “Like, apparently, some of the ultraposh people are stuck up about Alex marrying an American, but the commoners are allllll about it.”
“You just said ‘the commoners,’ so we’re not friends anymore. We had a good run, but—”
Isa pulls the straw out of her drink, flicking me with drops of iced mocha. “I’m trying to give you the lay of the land here, Dais. I am being your wing woman.”
I wipe my cheek with a napkin, then toss it at her. “No, you’re just reading gossip, and besides, none of that really has anything to do with me.”
Narrowing her dark eyes, Isabel props her elbows on the table. “You really think that?” she asks, and I shrug, uncomfortable.
Okay, so yes, this will have something to do with me, but maybe I can just take a crash course in royal etiquette before the wedding, then go back to living a life where I never have to know how deeply to curtsy to anyone.
“So what is my super hot not brother-in-law up to on those sites?” I ask, more to distract myself than anything else. Over at another table across the shop, I can see Hannah Contreras and Maddy Payne glancing over at Isabel and me, and I have a feeling we’re the subject of their whispered conversation. I like Hannah and Maddy fine (when you live in a town as small as Perdido, you’ve basically known the same people all your life), but I’ve never been the subject of gossip before and have to say, it’s not a fave.
“Well, he broke up with his girlfriend, so sayeth Off with Their Heads,” Isabel informs me. “Some also super hot Argentinean girl whose brother is a famous polo player. So to get over that, he and his buddies went to Monaco, but then . . .” She leans closer to the screen, squinting a little. “One of Seb’s friends noticed a dude taking pictures and decided to fight him. Threw the guy in a fountain. Then Seb pulled the photographer out and sent him a very large check the next day to cover the cost of his camera.”
“So basically, the same as one of our typical weekends,” I say, turning back to my test. “Got it.”
Giggling, Isabel takes another sip of her iced mocha. “Easy icebreaker at the wedding, at least.” Picking up her laptop, she turns it to face me. There’s a huge picture of Sebastian in a gorgeous suit, flashing a big grin, one hand up in a wave. His hair darker than Alex’s, but the camera’s flash still picks up hints of red. His eyes are just as blue as Alex’s, though, and I swear to god, even in a crappy paparazzi picture, they seem to sparkle. There is a guy on either side of him, one a good head shorter than Seb with dark curls and a scowl, the other sandy-haired and actually smiling at the cameras.
Isabel taps each guy in turn with one pink fingernail. “These guys are, like, always with Sebastian. Tabloids call them ‘the Royal Wreckers.’ Guys from crazy-posh families who went to school with Seb or something.”
“‘Seb’?” I echo, raising an eyebrow, and this time, Isabel has the grace to blush a little bit.
“I’ve been reading tons of this stuff!” she insists. “And all the papers and websites call him Seb. That’s the kind of thing you need to know, Dais. I mean, we haven’t even gotten to Princess Flora yet, and that’s where the real scandal is.”
I shake my head and click through to the next page of my test. “The less I know, the better,” I say. “I’m just going to get through the wedding, come home, and then the rest of . . . that” —I wave my hand at the screen, taking in the website, drunk Sebastian, his debauched, rich friends, all of it— “can be Ellie’s thing.”
Isabel makes a face at me, setting the computer back on the table and studying it again. “It’s a shame that proximity to boys like these is wasted on you.”
“It would be wasted on you, too,” I remind her, “what with Ben and all.”
At the mention of her boyfriend, Isabel just shrugs. “Ben would want me to fulfill my dreams, Daisy, and if one of those dreams is making out with a prince—”
“Ugh, stop!” I toss a balled-up napkin at her, and she laughs again.
But then, after a second, she rests her elbows on the table. “I’m serious, you know. Not about making out with Seb—well, I mean, I’m serious about that, too, but you really do need to look into all of this. Know what you’re getting yourself into.”
I look back to the page in front of me, chewing my lower lip. “I didn’t get myself into anything. El got us all into this, and she and Alex say nothing is going to change.”
Isabel goes quiet, and I look up from my test. She’s leaned back in her chair, her dark eyes slightly narrowed, and that means I’m about to get some serious Isabel Alonso Truthiness in my life.