“This is Seb’s place,” he says, and I nod, moving closer.
“So totally a Lord of the Flies thing, got it. Sucks to your ass-mar!” I call out to the blonde, but she’s still laughing and doesn’t hear me.
Miles does, though, and I think he might actually laugh a little himself as he pulls me deeper into the room.
There aren’t that many people in here—it’s definitely not as packed as a real club would be—but there are enough that I can’t spot Isa or Seb.
“You’re sure they’re here?” I ask Miles, but before he can reply, a redhead has launched herself off a nearby sofa and directly onto him.
“Monnnnnnnteeerrrrrrssss,” she drawls, wobbling on very high, very thin heels. She’s wearing a pair of jeans that probably cost more than our mortgage and one of those blouses Ellie wears a lot that seems to be made of anywhere between three and forty-seven layers of sheer material. Various ruffles of fabric flutter around her as she hugs Miles, then steps back, both hands on his shoulders, peering up into his face.
“You look hotter,” she says, narrowing her eyes slightly. “Did you get hotter?”
I don’t want to scoff, but it’s hard not to. Miles is traditionally handsome and all that, but hot? No, hot is reserved for boys who don’t own shoe trees, sorry, but—
“Sitting for my Higher in hotness this year,” Miles says to the girl now, one corner of his mouth lifted in something between a smirk and a grin. “Glad to see all the revising I’ve been doing has paid off.”
I stand there, feeling like someone just punched me in the chest. Miles is very much not hot, but that thing he just did? That flirty, witty . . . whatever that was?
That was kind of hot, which means this is clearly not just a secret club but actually a parallel universe where Miles Montgomery is a guy who girls would be into.
“Ooh-er,” the girl says, which is either some kind of nonsense word or possibly posh people code. Then she squeezes his shoulders again and looks over at me.
Her eyes widen a little, and I see that, like the girls at the race, she’s both beautiful and not all beautiful at the same time. Like money and centuries of power have put a gloss over her ordinary features.
“You’re Eleanor’s sister,” she says, then glances back at Miles before giving him a grin and slapping at his shoulder. “Monters, you prat. Does Flora know?”
Flora? She has to mean Princess Flora, Seb’s twin sister, but why would Flora care about Miles?
Glancing over at me, Miles ignores that and says, “Missy, Daisy and I are looking for Seb. Have you seen him?”
She blinks at me, then looks back to Miles, shifting her weight to one foot so quickly that I’m a little worried she’ll topple right over.
“Yar,” she says, because apparently she can only speak in that posh people code, or maybe she’s actually a pirate. “With a girl, natch. Pretty one, too. He’s by the bar.”
Miles winks at her—Winks! What is even happening?!—with a “Cheers,” then gently steers me away and toward the back of the room.
“Lady Melissa Dreyfuss, known as Missy,” he says in a low voice as we steer our way around a guy in a pink polo shirt kissing a girl who must be six inches taller than him. “Youngest daughter of the Duke of Drummond. The duke went missing about ten years ago after he tried to murder one of their stable grooms, so that’s a bit of a scandal, obviously. Missy has an uncle who’s trying to have the duke declared dead so that he can take the title, and—Daisy?”
I glance over at him, still remembering how genuinely cute he’d looked flirting with Missy. How bizarre that was.
Then I clue into what he’s saying and, more accurately, what he’s doing.
“Tea,” he tells me very seriously, and I nod at him.
“Absolutely tea. Murder and disappearance? Scorching Earl Grey right there.”
Pleased with himself, Miles keeps moving forward, and I keep following, trying to listen to him, process the fact that he might be cute, look for Isa, and not get accidentally sucked into an orgy.
It’s clearly a tall order.
But then, finally, the crowd parts a little bit, revealing a bar against the back wall, and standing in front of it are—
“Oh my god.”
When you’ve been best friends for as long as Isabel and I have—ten years and counting—you get pretty good at reading each other’s faces. Isabel knows when I’m making my “I’m embarrassed and about to make it worse with a terrible joke” face. I know her “I’m maybe not telling the entire truth” face. And I definitely know her “I’m about to hand this stupid boy his ass” face because I’ve seen it in class about a hundred times.
And that is very much the face Isa is wearing now.
I thought we’d find them all cozied up, Isabel’s face aglow with princely attention. Or maybe they’d be kissing, which would be worse.
What I didn’t expect was to see them standing near the bar, staring each other down, with Isabel yelling over the music, “You’re a complete jackass, you know that?”
Seb is looking as stunned as I feel, and next to me, Miles pulls up short.
“This is . . . unexpected,” he mutters.
“I beg your pardon?” Seb asks. Neither he nor Isabel have noticed us yet, so intent on whatever it is they’re arguing about.
“A jackass,” Isabel repeats, not even fazed. Her shoulders are back, chin lifted, and ohhhh, this is bad. “Or whatever word you use for that here.”
“I’m familiar with the term,” Seb replies, some of his shock giving way to the icy disdain thing I’ve seen El pull. “I’m just not sure why it’s directed at me.”
Before this can get any worse, I step forward, practically dragging Miles with me. “Hey, you two!” I say, and my voice is so loud and so bright that I actually wince.
“What’s going on?”
Seb and Isa both startle a little looking over at us.
“Monters?” Seb asks, confused, and Miles goes to stand next to Seb, slapping one hand on his shoulder. I do the same on Isabel’s side—well, minus the show of testosterone—and Miles and I glance at each other, suddenly realizing all we’re doing is hemming our feuding besties in closer together.
Which is clearly an issue since not even our presence is going to stop this argument.
“It’s not sexist, if that’s what you’re trying to imply,” Seb says to Isabel, obviously just picking up wherever this left off. “I certainly have no problem with women, but Gregorstoun isn’t the place for them. It would be . . .” He waves one hand, looking up at the ceiling like the answer might be there. “Distracting,” he settles on, and Miles groans, tipping his head back.
“Seb,” he says, “we’ve talked about this.”
“I’m right!” Seb insists, turning to look at Miles. “You know I am. And that place is a bloody nightmare, Monters, do you think girls would like it there?”
“Wait, there really aren’t any girls at your scary boarding school?” I ask, and Miles meets my gaze again, his expression apologetic.
“There aren’t, and it’s become a bit of an issue. Some of us live in the twenty-first century and think going coed is not a bad idea. Others of us are—”