I make out Connor’s words, “We need to keep this out of the tabloids…Lily and Lo don’t need to know. They feel guilty enough for the media attention…”
“What happened?” I ask Ryke who nears the bed. Scott continues to just stand by the f**king door, watching. It’s not as though this is being filmed. We’re in a bedroom, which means there aren’t cameras here.
“Daisy called me on her cell,” he says.
She stares at the ground, her face as pale as a sheet.
I shake her arms, not very maternal or soft, and she almost blows over with my force. “Daisy? Talk to me.”
“He barged in my room,” she says under her breath.
I collect her waist-length hair out of her face, trying not to freak out. “And?” I say, clenching my teeth. If he put a finger on her…
Her gorgeous face contorts in a series of violent emotions. “…he started taking pictures of me…I didn’t know what to do, so I called Ryke…” She shakes her head and tears splash onto the floorboards. “…I’m so tired…” I hold her to my chest while she begins to cry.
I look up at Ryke, and he stares at her with that same look I saw during the screening party. Concern. Dark empathy.
“Shh,” I whisper to her, combing my fingers through her hair. I rest my chin on her head and keep her close.
“…I’m so tired,” she says again, her voice trembling. When our mother’s not preoccupied with Lily’s wedding, she pulls Daisy in five different directions. She makes sure she’s booked for photo shoots, and for the past three weeks, Daisy has been working tirelessly. If she’s not at school, then our mom carts her to New York to visit her new modeling agency. I’ve hardly seen her at all this month.
I even had to convince our mother to let me throw Daisy a birthday party. She would’ve had to cancel one of her shoots so she could celebrate. It took four screaming matches over the phone before I won out. But that was just one free day I gained for her.
“What’s going on at school, Dais?” Ryke asks.
I glance over my shoulder to make sure Lily and Lo aren’t here. At least they’re still sleeping.
Daisy chokes on a sporadic breath. “I…I’m fine…really.”
I exchange a worried look with Ryke.
He mouths, It’s not f**king good.
I know, I mouth back.
But what can we do? She has to finish prep school, and I can only guess the kind of ridicule kids are casting on her. She’s famous now. Her sister is a sex addict, and she’s been painted as a sex-addict-to-be. Her photographs are everywhere—sometimes deliberately from modeling, other times not consented from paparazzi. It’s an abrupt change from her old life, and none of us can relate to her current situation. We’re all in our twenties, out of prep school by now. We don’t have to worry about bullying like that.
“We’re going to take care of this,” I tell her. I’m going to surround the f**king townhouse with security. We had iron fences and a guarded gate at our home in Princeton. We should have had better things in place here. “How’d he break through the front door?” I ask Ryke.
He glares. “I didn’t have time to f**king ask.”
My lips tighten. “Did he touch her?”
Ryke stares back down at Daisy. “Did he f**king touch you, Daisy?”
She shakes her head repeatedly. “No…I’m sorry…” She wipes her eyes quickly and tries to bottle her emotions.
“Don’t you ever f**king apologize for another guy’s offense,” he growls. He layers on a few more curse words as he glares at the ceiling.
Wow. Ryke jumped up twenty points in my book. Not for the swearing, to be clear. “When did you become such a feminist?” I ask him.
“Since I learned my alcoholic father cheated on my mother. Then he f**king left her so he could raise his bastard son.” The bitterness and resentment pours from his harsh words.
“I shouldn’t have asked.” His family tree is f**ked up. I smooth Daisy’s hair.
Connor pads over to us, pocketing his phone. He no longer has the guy by the shirt. In fact, the man is gone. “Your father’s security came and took him,” he tells me. “He broke through the front door with a bump key.”
“Your father already hired extra security to stand outside. He’s taking care of the incident quietly. No one will know about this unless Scott decides to air it. He has footage of the man coming up the stairs and through the hallway.”
I look for Scott, but he’s gone too.
“Lily and Lo…” Daisy murmurs, rubbing her eyes.
“They won’t ever find out,” Ryke says. “This stays between the four of us.”
And Scott. But no one adds him or my father’s name to the mix.
And we don’t ask why Lily and Lo can’t know. It’s what Connor had told my father on the phone. The guilt would hurt them so much. The crazed media was spawned from Lily’s addiction being publicized. But I bear some of the guilt myself—for putting my sisters through a reality show with awful security, for ditching their bodyguards. But I can withstand that guilt and come out strong.
Lily and Lo can’t. They’re addicts. This is naturally going to tear them apart, and they could turn to their vices to numb the feelings. And none of us want that. We’ll be the walls that shield these terrible events from them. We can endure the pain for however long they need to heal.
It’s what the four of us agreed to the moment Lily was afraid to step out of the house and meet the world. The moment Lo looked sick each time he tried to convince her to go outside and face the coldhearted media.
There was a very dark point where we all believed they’d die together. Where they’d call it quits. There were moments where I wondered how any girl could endure what she was going through. And I think the only reason they both didn’t leave the world was because they refused to leave it together.
Leaving separately—causing the other to suffer that horrific loss—I doubt that was even an option in their minds.
[ 22 ]
“What is it?” I ask Rose while I pay for the check at the crowded restaurant. The seven of us—Scott included, who feels more and more like a tagalong as Rose and I grow closer—ate out at Valentino’s for dinner.
The more popular Princesses of Philly becomes, the more press has latched onto us. Besides the drones of photographers outside, families in booths snap pictures of us with their phones as we sit at a long table.
But that’s not why Rose’s brows have pinched together. She cups her cell on her lap and concentrates on the blue-lit screen.
I hook my ankle to her chair and drag her closer to me.
“She’s relentless,” Rose says stiffly.
I read the text.
3 months and 24 days – Mom
“Should I even ask about wedding dress shopping?” Last time I questioned about the cake, Rose almost went manic, spouting off things that her mother told her in a discordant mess. I couldn’t understand anything she was saying, not even as she spoke in French. She kept pacing in our bedroom and breathing abnormally. It took me an entire hour to calm her down.
“Lily said she didn’t want to go,” she says. “I can get Daisy and Poppy to be fitted for bridesmaids’ dresses without Lily there, but I can’t just go pick out a wedding gown for her.” She stays relatively at ease, so she must have thought of a solution.
“I’m going to sew her one,” she tells me. “I’ve been designing it for the past week. I think I can finish it in the amount of time I have left.”
I don’t want to reiterate what Frederick has been telling me, even though I know it’s true. She’s taken on too much. She’s not only planning Lily’s wedding and her bachelorette party, but she’s been working tirelessly on reviving Calloway Couture. She refuses to hire employees until her profit margin increases, so she’s tasked with all of the social media and inventory, not to mention calls from hopeful investors and department stores.
It’s a lot for one person to handle. I can’t see how designing a wedding dress will alleviate any of her anxiety, but I’d rather not be a hypocrite in this situation. My body is being fueled by Adderall. It’s not the noble solution, and I wouldn’t want Rose to take it.
“I’m sure you’ll find time,” I say, trying to believe the words so they don’t feel like such a lie.
“So do you really have a boyfriend or are you just f**king with us?” Ryke asks Daisy as he tosses his napkin on the table, servers clearing away the last of our dirty plates.
“Yeah, how come he’s never been in an episode?” Lo asks.
Daisy leans back on two legs of her chair and shrugs. “I don’t know. Ask Scott.”
“Let’s not talk about production,” Scott says casually. Maybe he has trouble not being a complete and utter dipshit because his eyes do a number on Daisy—staring at her makeup-less face, her natural beauty enough for him to stare longer and harder. His eyes even fall to her br**sts, the sides exposed in a Calloway Couture gold sparkling top, the neckline plunged.
“Eyes up here,” Ryke forces, waving his knife towards his own face in a threatening gesture.
Scott doesn’t peel his gaze from Daisy, which is starting to aggravate the f**k out of me. The public has been clear that they’re overwhelmingly Team Scott in this fake love triangle. I think the last blog comment I read said something like: Connor is getting on my mf-ing nerves!! What the hell does Rose see in HIM?! Scott loves her soooooo much. – LadyBug345
I’ve also learned that many people want to fight me. I get “I want to punch Connor Cobalt!” all the time. I almost choked on my coffee this morning, laughing hard as I went through comments. Behave, Connor. If you were my son, I’d wash your mouth out with soap. – DeeDeeJohnes
DeeDee, I admire your fervor, even if you’re not on my side. That’s what I feel with each disdainful remark. At least these people care about something so deeply that they’re willing to shout about it online.
An impassioned spirit truly paints the gray world with color.
What the public hasn’t realized is that Scott has been shying away from Rose more and more. He’s refocused his attention. Two days ago, he showed Lily a photoshopped picture of her head cut and pasted on a humping bunny. Some guy made it online, and it spread through Tumblr. Even Celebrity Crush reposted the image on their website.
And Lily has been purposefully avoiding any criticism about her or the show. Scott took it upon himself to change that.
Lo almost went postal when he came home to find Lily bawling in Rose’s arms. Literally, I had to cover my hand over his mouth so he’d stopped threatening to cut Scott into tiny indistinguishable pieces.
There was one benefit from this. Our mutual hate for Scott has trumped any sort of disagreement we’ve had since the screening party. I’ve seen only a small change in my relationship with Lo. When we joke around, his features sometimes sharpen more quickly, as though remembering that I don’t love him the way he probably believed I did. That I don’t even love Rose. He questions what’s real and what’s fake between us now.
I wish he wouldn’t, but I can’t change what’s happened. I just have to move on.
“Do you like dares, Daisy?” Scott asks, his eyes flitting from her br**sts to her face.
“Sure,” she says.
Daisy is considered a weak link in our group. But Lily is definitely the most fragile. Scott is redirecting his attention on them. Rose and I worry about how far he’s going to go to break her sisters and fracture our group of six.
“I dare you,” Scott says with a creeping smile, “to go flash the paparazzi when we leave.”
Ryke tosses his knife onto the table nearest Scott. It clatters in his lap. “I dare you to go f**k yourself,” he sneers.
Scott just tauntingly keeps his gaze on Rose’s little sister.
Daisy stands up and everyone goes rigid. “I dare all of you to chill out. My top is staying on, thank you very much.”
I wrap my arm around Rose’s waist as we all rise to leave. Savannah, Brett, and Ben are already on their feet, filming us.
But Rose points a finger at Scott. “You’re disgusting.”
“She had strippers at her seventeenth birthday party. Taking off her top for a few cameras is nothing in comparison.”
“They were dancers, and they stayed fully-clothed,” Rose retorts with a deadly glare.
“Let’s go,” Lily says in a soft voice. “Please, everyone…”
People in the restaurant are beginning to stare. Lo rubs her shoulders.
I toss Ryke the car keys to Rose’s Escalade since I’ve been drinking and she had a glass of wine with me. He catches them easily and heads out first with Daisy. When Scott tries to stand by her side, Ryke literally puts a hand on his chest and forces him back.