Page 32

“Sensible,” Seb finishes, giving Miles a light shove. “Honestly, Monters, this has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with tradition. And . . . and safety.”

Isabel’s eyes are practically blazing. “Why wouldn’t girls be ‘safe’”—she makes air quotes before tucking her hands back under her elbows—“at your school?”

Seb looks so flummoxed that I almost feel sorry for him, and when Isabel’s meaning dawns on him, he seems genuinely horrified. “I don’t mean they wouldn’t be safe from us, Christ, what sort of person do you think I am?”

“I think you’re a spoiled, selfish, sexist jackass,” Isa says, not even hesitating, and on the other side of Seb, Miles’s eyes go big. It’s clear no one—and certainly no girl—has ever talked to Seb like this.

“I’m a prince,” he finally splutters, and Isa makes a clicking sound with her tongue like that explains it all.

Shaking his head slightly, Seb looks down at the floor. All around us, his friends—or people who’d just like to be his friends—are still dancing and drinking and probably lighting more things on fire, but we’re having a conversation about coed schools. “Gregorstoun is isolated and remote. They make us . . . sail boats in awful weather, and climb bloody mountains, and run in the freezing cold. That’s all I meant, that it’s simply too . . . too physically taxing for women.”

With that, he fumbles on the bar to his right, grabbing a glass of whiskey that may or may not be his. He throws it back, then looks to Miles.

Miles just shakes his head. “Not a shovel big enough to dig you out of this one, mate.”

Sighing, Seb slams his now-empty glass back onto the bar. “This night is really not going the way I expected,” he mutters, and Isabel huffs out a sigh before turning to me.

“The feeling is mutual,” she says, and then goes to push her way through the crowd.

But before she’s swallowed up, she turns to look over her shoulder at Seb and calls out, “For the record, I’ve had better kisses from band geeks.”

That actually gets the attention of some of the people on the dance floor, and one girl with long, stick-straight blond hair actually covers her mouth with her hand, eyes going wide.

With that, Isabel walks off, leaving me standing by Miles and Seb, Seb’s face going stormy, Miles looking like he wished he was anywhere else.

I know that feeling.

I hurry after Isabel, dodging Missy, who somehow got even drunker in the past few minutes and calls after me, “Is Monters still here?”

“He’s by the bar!” I shout back. “Knock yourself out!”

She wrinkles her nose, but I’m already at the stairs, catching up with Isa.

She’s halfway up, and I catch her arm.

“You kissed him?” I ask, breathless from the drunk rich people gauntlet I just ran through, and she sighs, rolling her shoulders.

“Unfortunately, yes.”

Pausing, she tilts her head, long black hair sweeping over her shoulders. “And I lied about the band geek part. It was actually pretty awesome, but I’m retroactively taking away points because he’s such a toolbox.”

We make our way up the stairs. The main part of the club is empty now, Gilly and his leggy lady nowhere to be seen. The bodyguard is still by the door, though, and Isabel stops, moving her bag to her other shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” she says, and I look at her, confused.

“For calling Seb a toolbox? You shouldn’t be, he kind of is. I was going to tell you that earlier, but I didn’t want to ruin your—

“Not that,” Isabel says, shaking her head. “For ditching you. I was just . . . everything with Ben, and then there was a prince asking me if I wanted to get away for a little bit, and I . . . got dazzled.”

She wrinkles her nose. “Which is totally unlike me, but this place is weird.”

That’s the truest thing I’ve heard all day, and I nod, throwing my arms out to the side, taking in Seb’s club, Seb himself, this entire day. “Welcome to my world.”

Shuddering a little, Isa shoves her hands in her back pockets. “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to reading the blogs from now on.”

We head for the door, and Isa gives another sigh. “It was all going really well up until I asked about his school, too. I mean, not well, maybe the conversation was kind of awkward, but the kiss was promising.” Then she screws up her face. “I can’t believe I kissed a dude who doesn’t think women should go to his precious boarding school.”

I wonder if I should bring up my own Seb kiss but then decide that no, this night has been a lot already.

Something Isabel confirms as she says, “I just want to forget the past few hours ever happened.”

“Solid plan,” I agree as the bodyguard opens the front door for us.

But any thought of forgetting this night happened is erased as about a thousand flashes go off in our faces.

Chapter 23

Later, I’ll learn that there were only four photographers outside the club, but at the time, it feels like there are dozens. Hundreds, even. The flashes are blinding, the clicking incessant. Somehow it’s worse than that day on the Mile, maybe because it’s dark and the flashes seem so bright, or maybe because then I was with Ellie and the other guys, and a whole bunch of bodyguards. Now it’s just me, and I can hear people calling my name.

“Daisy, are you dating Seb?”

“Daisy, does your sister know you’re here?”

“Who’s your friend, love?”

It’s a constant barrage, and I blink against it, frozen until I feel a hand on my elbow and look up to see Miles standing next to me, Seb right behind him.

“All right, gentlemen, that’s enough,” Miles says calmly, and bizarrely the flashes stop. Well, they pause, at least, and then Seb steps forward.

“Slow night, lads?” he teases. “Can’t imagine what the going rate is for me spending time with my future sister-in-law.”

Smiling down at me, Seb steps closer, and Isabel is basically hidden behind his back, Miles just off to the right. Weirdly enough, it’s Seb’s calm that makes me calm.

Maybe too calm, because when a photographer calls out, “What did you think of Seb’s club, Daisy?” a reply jumps to my lips before I can stop it.

“Disappointing,” I reply. “Hardly any naked ladies, and only one chimpanzee.”

There’s a burst of laughter at that, and the cameras start up again.

Seb laughs, too, putting a friendly hand on my shoulder, but I realize it’s less for show and more to start gently but inexorably pushing me toward the waiting car. His bodyguard is out of the club now, making a path for us to the car, and as the four of us pile in, I feel Miles’s hand at my back. The shutters are clicking again, but then the door closes with a thunk, and the chaos outside is muted.

I flop back against the seat with a sigh, placing a hand on my forehead.

“Chimpanzee?” Miles asks, and I shake my head.

“I panicked.”

The corners of his mouth turn down as Seb settles into the back seat, the car gliding away from the curb.

Isabel doesn’t seem as freaked out, just looking out the window with a frown. “So that’s what it’s like,” she muses softly, and Seb looks over at her sharply.

“It’s usually worse,” he tells her, flicking his auburn hair out of his eyes. “That was mild, love.”