Page 28 of Claiming Cinderella

“You can kiss my ass, Aiden. I’m not giving you her number so you can go live happily ever after with that pain in my ass. You want her, good luck finding her, because after tonight, she’s going to be a homeless skank.” She grabbed her sister’s hand, and the two took off upstairs. I could only imagine they’d still end up in Zep’s bed.

I hurried away and ran to the front door, taking a quick look outside. I had no idea what kind of car she came in and no idea if she’d had enough time to leave, but she was nowhere in sight.

I hurried back in, and Zep stopped me at the bottom of the stairs. “I’m sorry, man. I should have stepped in, but I didn’t know it would be this bad.”

“I want her, Zep. I fucking care about her, and I can’t stand to think she’s lost her fucking job and has nowhere to go now because of me. I feel like shit. I’ve got to go after her, if not right now, soon. Tonight.”

“You realize who she is, right?” Zep looked at me like he couldn’t believe I’d want someone like Ella. I wasn’t sure he knew who she was.

“She’s Layla Ford’s daughter.” I watched as my words registered and I could tell by his shock he’d had no idea.

“What? No fucking way.” He scratched his head. “I just meant that she’s that chick from the club— the train wreck who spilled her drink all over you.” My jaw dropped as I remembered the plain girl. She wasn’t anything like that now, but I had to wonder if it were the magic of the gala that had made her so much more appealing or the fact that she was having a bad night the first time at the club. I could believe the latter only because I had a feeling the twins had been messing with her that night as well. They were a real force to be reckoned with.

“Well, she might have been a fucking mess that night, but she’s amazing, and I still want her. More than anyone I’ve ever wanted, Zep.”

“And you’re sure she’s Layla Ford’s daughter and not just saying that.” He met my eyes and shook his head like I had to be careful.

I gave him a sideward glance. “Who’d lie about something like that? Besides, she’s still grieving. It’s obvious.”

“Someone wanting your attention, your money, I don’t know, man. I just want you to be careful. Maybe it’s someone who knows you’re in mourning too still. Someone using that to play on your heartstrings.” Zep had always looked out for me, and I could imagine that with the way the twins had been so quick to chastise Ella for being with me that he’d wonder. No wonder what they’d made him think.

“She said something else, man. Something that hasn’t sat right with me all along. She said that the lady she was living with was helping her out with her finances. Now that I know who she’s living with, I can’t help but worry. Nola Blue is known to be ruthless in getting whatever she can for her daughters.”

“You think Nola is skimming from this chick? Why would she have to? I think you’re reaching, man. I understand not liking the twins, and even I know they can be two little bitter brats, but this is a big accusation, Aiden. One I’d step into carefully or not at all. You don’t want to fuck with Nola Blue. Your mother would shit.”

I nodded, but only to let him think I agreed. From what she told me she should have a small fortune, one that even cancer and mounting hospital bills would be hard pressed to find the bottom of, unless someone was skimming or flat stealing from her. Not only would I find Ella, but I’d try to do whatever I could to help her.

I took the ring and slipped it into my pocket and then I asked Zep to cover for me.

“You’re going after her, aren’t you?” He met my eyes and shook his head.

“Yes, now cover for me. Like I would do for you. I won’t get into it with Nola Blue, but I’m going to find Ella. I don’t care what’s going on with her. I want her, and you know how I get when I set my sights on someone I want.”

“Fine, but if your mother gives me shit, you owe me one.”

“No, we’ll call it even for not speaking up to help me when you had the chance.” I gave him a warm smile and a pat on the back.