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Eden O'Neill

We the Pretty Stars

We the Pretty Stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 863 5-Star Reviews

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He’s a supernova... wild and untamed but I refuse to let his light die. If need be, I’ll be that light for him.

We’ll end this together.

The body count is rising in Maywood Heights and Royal seems determined to add to that number. He wants to take out those who hurt Paige. Though I want justice too, I’m not sure how far his need for revenge will take him. These flames might consume him in the end. If we’re not careful, they may destroy all of us, Royal’s boys and myself included in that number. Something dark and deeply wicked looms over the town Maywood Heights, but I’m determined to stand next to Royal, Knight, Jax, and LJ to do what needs to be done. My sister will get justice in this town. She deserves it and we’ll be the ones to bring it to her...

I just hope the ultimate price in the end isn’t our souls.

Warning: This enemies-to-lovers, high school romance contains some dark themes and light bullying. The book is not a standalone and is book four in a four-part series of full-length novels. Royal Prinze is the only hero of this tale... good luck getting him to share.

*Hardcover and Paperback books purchased after 1/26/24 will include author's stamped signature

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Chapter One


Two girls… Two teenage deaths in a matter of months.
What the hell is going on here?
I hadn’t liked Mira. God, had I not liked her, but I never wanted her dead. I never wanted that, for anyone or anyone’s family to feel what I’d felt over the passing months. I honestly hadn’t believed it when we found out, that assembly the weirdest thing. They placed us all in the gym, Principal Hastings at the front with a microphone. He’d told us something, a student dead and…
The sheriff had been there too, Sheriff Ashford basically a mess standing next to our headmaster. At one point, he hadn’t been able to hold it together and excused himself. After that, the headmaster continued, and though he didn’t give too many details, he didn’t have to in the end. Mira’s story spread like wildfire in the halls of Windsor Preparatory Academy, word of her suicide lining the pages of the local paper. She’d hung herself. Right in her bedroom in the middle of the night.
What the fuck?
I hadn’t slept at all that night, thoughts of Mira and whatever she was feeling replaying in my head. She’d threatened me not hours before that, threatened Royal, but she hadn’t seemed sad. None of this made sense.
If confusion was my reaction, a chill was Royal and crew’s. They wouldn’t talk about any of it all, letting the conversations happen around them. At times, I caught the boys whispering to each other, leaving me out of things, and the day of Mira’s funeral, Royal’s vault of a demeanor was basically the same. He picked me up in his Audi, a stonewall aside from the affection he gave. Since we got back together, he hadn’t allowed me out of his sight except to go home and sleep at night.
Even then sometimes he’d make it through my bedroom window.
Hershey always announced his presence, a soft yip, and after he petted her, he’d join me in bed. He’d hold me, not letting go. He didn’t let go, not anymore. Even now on the way to the funeral, he had his fingers looped in mine while he drove, a lot going on in this car that wasn’t being said. Though I didn’t like that, I allowed it for the time being.
We were going to a funeral today.
The whole school was going, something I think was expected of the town. There wasn’t even any debate that we’d all be going, this town. It was just what was going to happen, everyone coming. Birdie had texted me earlier that morning that she and a bunch of the basketball girls were going together. She’d invited me, but I told her I had a ride. Royal and I pulled up to a large white church with just the two of us, and when he left my hand, it was only for a few moments for him to let me out. Soon, we were united again on the other side of the car, entering a church together filled with so many people. I honestly think the whole town was there, pews upon pews of people, like this was a wedding.
Not yet another dark day.
This town seemed to keep having those, a cloud over this place’s head. Blending in with the masses, I let Royal lead me to an open pew. It had a few people sitting on the end, but the majority of it was free. After taking off my coat, I sat down, and he joined, throwing an arm across my shoulders and smelling so good. I loved that heat about him, his warmth, as his green gaze circulated the crowd. He wore his blond hair pushed back and moussed, a stress lining his face I didn’t like. Again, he was a vault. Albeit a beautiful one. He’d arrived at my house in a suit not much unlike the tux he’d worn when he took me to homecoming. It hugged his muscular arms and chiseled thighs in all the right places, the pewter tone a wonderful offset to his eyes. When I was with him, I felt protected and usually settled.
But not today. Today I watched him look anxious, a tension tugging dusky blond eyebrows together. I’d only leaned over to talk to him about that when several boulders masquerading as teenage boys arrived at our pew. Knight, Jax, and LJ had obviously driven to the church separately but they were here now. They each clasped Royal’s hand one by one, an assembly line of acknowledgment. The pretty boys wore suits, looking like handsome men today, and after, they looked at me. I sat there, knowing I hadn’t really associated with any of them since the initial assembly. School had been let out early that day due to Mira, and then had been the weekend.
Well, here we were now.
Royal and I were obviously a new development, and though we sat together at the assembly, there wasn’t much talking then. At least to me.
Royal’s arm lowered, and he moved his big body back to allow the boys to pass and sit. In my black dress, I wiggled back too, receiving a “hey” from LJ and nothing but a chin tip from Knight. That’s just how Knight rolled, not ever much for words. When Jax started to pass, he stopped. He made a parting motion for LJ to shift his weight and make room as LJ had sat next to me.
Rolling his eyes, the tall blond moved enough for Jax to push his body into the space, and settled, Jax placed an arm around me. This maneuver caused him to inadvertently touch Royal’s shoulder, which got Jax a swift growl on Royal’s end and a death stare that might scare me had it been directed toward me.
“Sorry, man.” Jax cleared his throat, returning his hand to his lap. He gave me a little wave. “Hey, December.”
It seemed things of the past had been forgotten, his aversion to my relationship with Royal. I had a feeling that had to do with things I’d been waiting to hear about from Royal’s end, but honestly, I wasn’t mad at Jax anyway. Maybe I should be, but a part of me really liked him, liked all of them really. Even Knight. They did always look out for me, there when I never really seemed to know I needed them. They all played a place in my life due to connections with my sister.
I sat back, Royal’s arm returning behind me. Squeezing, he pulled me forward, and I noticed a silent exchange between him and the guys. Even Knight had looked at him, nodding before reaching forward and taking a program off the back of the pew ahead. I had a lot of questions here, and they started with that.
I tugged Royal’s lapel. “What’s going on?”
Lustrous green eyes shifted in my direction, a slight smile to them before he cradled the back of my head. He brought my head down, kissing the top.
“Nothing, princess,” he said, nothing like I was stupid and that he hadn’t just promised me something not a few days ago. He promised me information, that he’d let me in on everything regarding my sister and what happened to her. He said he’d put it out there and not keep anything from me anymore. All that seemed to fall to the wayside after all this with Mira, the road trip he promised me put on the back burner. I hadn’t questioned it at the time. After all, the day of the assembly had been the day we’d planned to go. We didn’t know when her funeral would be, so we stayed around for that. I hadn’t forgotten though that he said he had to show me something, something he said couldn’t just be told.
I hadn’t forgotten a lot of things, my tongue held now only because my cell phone decided to buzz in that very moment. Ignoring it, I shoved it deep inside my purse, but that didn’t stop the illumination.
Royal noticed.
Reaching across my lap, he slid his hand inside my purse, his proximity to the place he’d made me ache in the past too close. He retrieved the phone quickly and, after checking the face, held it out to me.
“It’s Birdie,” he said and, having handed me my phone, returned his arm to behind my neck. His eyes warmed. “Shouldn’t make her wait, princess.”
How easily he could distract with those eyes and he obviously knew it. I wouldn’t question him in this moment, his fingers brushing the delicate hairs behind my neck, and considering where we were right now it was probably best. It wasn’t appropriate, and that was the only reason I decided to read the texts from my friend, who was currently blowing up my phone with variations of the same message. She wanted to know where I was, if I was here and if so, where.
Birdie: We saved you a seat, toward the right side of the church if you’re just coming in.
I gazed around the area, people standing up everywhere. This made it quite difficult to see anyone, but one thing I could see was the crowds were making an assembly line toward the front. When we had sat down, I hadn’t really gotten a chance to see anything or anyone, but my eyes in that direction, I knew exactly why people were lining up.
She’s up there.
Mira… Mira in a casket. She, herself, was still too far away but an ivory-colored casket with people bowing their heads over it could definitely be made out. She was up there for the world to see, obviously, since that’s how these things worked.
I swallowed before gazing down back at my phone.
Me: I’m toward the back. Just got here.
Birdie: Oh, we’re towards the front. Still don’t see you.
Me: Just look for the Court brick wall.
Referring to Royal and his gang, I waited for the return text. It came swiftly.
Birdie: Whoa, what the fuck? Why are you sitting with Royal?
Two seconds later.
Birdie: Why is Royal’s arm around you? Dude…
Truth be told, I hadn’t seen Birdie and the others at the assembly either. The room had been really crowded, and after, they did let us out of school. Had I seen her, these questions might have come then since Royal and I had been very much together that day as well.
Me: Long story.
Birdie: Okay, give me the Cliff’s Notes version.
About to do that, I was bumped when Royal got up. Soon, the others followed and before I knew it, I was being surrounded literally by a Court wall, tall boys even taller as they were standing up and I was sitting down.
Royal cradled his hand behind the back of my neck, kissing the top of my head again.
“We’re going to go pay our respects,” he said, pulling away. “Be right back.”
He didn’t let me argue. He didn’t let me come. He only squeezed my hand before his boys followed him out of the pew, and that pissed me off.
I lifted my phone.
Me: We’re seeing each other. Where are you guys?
Birdie: Front right. Three pews back and uh, what???
I gazed around, finding her and the others easily with their heights now that I had direction. That was definitely nice about having friends who played on the basketball team. Birdie with her big, brown bushy curls sat with her neck craned, waving an arm. After a moment, she nudged the shoulders of some of our other friends. The whole pew was basketball girls and boys, and Shakira sat right next to her. The dark-skinned girl with long braids also waved a hand, and Kiki, our other good friend, sat in the row behind them with more basketball players. The girl looked like a Korean model in her dress, which I knew her family originally hailed from as she’d told me. After Shakira reached back and pinched her, she waved too, her smile full.
I smiled as well before going back to my text message.
Me: Don’t make a thing of it. It’s still new.
Birdie: Okay, well. You’ll explain after all this? I thought you were done with that.
He wasn’t done with me, and I found myself with no desire at all to be freed. I loved Royal. I loved him so much, and though that honestly freaked me out, I’d rather lean into it than run away. He needed me, and I needed him.
Even if he didn’t show that right now.
He’d made his way up to the front by this point, standing with LJ, Knight, and Jax. Like he said, they were paying their respects. Hands behind their backs, they stood gazing into the casket. I still couldn’t really make out much besides that, Mira’s body deep into the bed of the casket, but they had a picture of her right next to it. She was smiling. She was alive and wearing her cheerleader uniform. She was in the perfect peak of her life and not some shell just lying in a casket. She was complete. She was whole.
What the fuck is wrong with this town?
That question plagued me through a surprisingly short service. My mom had been Catholic so hers had been quite long. My sister’s service was also a bit lengthy but mostly because of my dad. I hadn’t seen him today, but hadn’t expected him either. He’d been working a lot the past few days and had been gone the whole weekend entirely.
Fresh air couldn’t have come at a better time upon leaving the church, and I drank it in the instant I was allowed it. Royal kept his long fingers laced with mine, and though the other boys were nearby, I felt disconnected from all of them. They kept looking at each other, not looking at me. They were doing more of their Court telepathy, and not only did that annoy me, I was insulted by it. Royal’s hand left mine when we reached the street, but only because I got the distraction of other friends. Birdie and some of the basketball team made their appearance, and I gave Birdie a hug the minute she found me.
“This is all crazy, right?” she announced, looking quite sad really. All the girls did. We weren’t Mira’s biggest fans, but still, I didn’t think anyone wanted anything bad to happen to her. Birdie swallowed. “I mean, I know she called me Big Bird, but I’d never want anything like this to happen.”
She took the words right out of my mouth, and in the shuffle, I realized Royal, LJ, Knight, and Jax had allowed me to be led off. They currently stood in the street with a few other Court members, just talking. Royal’s hands were in his pockets, and seeing me, he tipped his chin before going back to it.
I rubbed Birdie’s shoulder. “Same. I didn’t like her, but yeah. Never wanted this to happen.”
“Any of you guys know why she did it?” Smoke pulled from Shakira’s lips. She’d lit a joint right outside of the church.
Kiki smacked her hand. “Girl, you can’t smoke that here, now.”
“Girl, I can’t not smoke this here. You saw that shit.” Shakira shook her head, taking another drag. “Just tragic.”
Agreeing, the joint got passed around. We made sure to do it out of the fray and to the side of the church, but we were still technically on the front lawn. I didn’t think any of us cared at that point, and even I took a hit, which got me a look from a few old people lingering outside. They should probably respect how others decided to deal with this stuff. I would if I saw them doing the same.
I folded my arms. “No idea why. But she didn’t exactly seem like she had everything together.”
In saying that, I thought about those last moments I’d had with her. She’d been seriously on one hundred when she freaked out on me and maybe wherever all that came from just got the best of her.
The joint made it over to Birdie. She tipped her chin. “You don’t think it’s because of you, right?”
Her saying that honestly left me gobsmacked. My jaw dropped. “What?”
“I just mean…” And in the next seconds, her gaze flitted over to Royal and crew. The guys were all still talking, in their own little world. I noticed not completely though. Royal and even Knight, Jax, and LJ were definitely keeping tabs on me. They were a part of their conversation with the other boys of the Court, yes, but their eyes definitely escaped in my direction quite a few times. As I was doing the same with them, I didn’t make much of it. I needed to know where they were, and they obviously felt the same.
“Yeah.” A finger came out, Kiki’s, when she pointed toward my neck. “Is that his ring? We saw you sitting with Royal. At the assembly?”
“Mm-hmm, and Birdie tells us you guys are together?” Shakira’s eyebrows rose. “Is that his ring around your neck?”
Having forgotten about the token, I placed my fingers to the very ring resting on my chest. Royal gave it to me the day we got back together, moments before everything changed once again.
“This doesn’t mean you belong to me… It means you’re a part of me, a part of all this. I don’t own you because you can’t be owned.”
He’d said I couldn’t be owned, but he was still owning me. I rubbed the ring. “Her taking her life can’t be because of me.”
Birdie shrugged, holding the weed out to Shakira. “We’re not saying it really was, but you are with her man now.”
“Okay, you guys are seriously overstepping. God—” I started to walk away, but was grabbed, Birdie.
She placed her hands on my shoulders, then pushed them around me, a strong hug. “We’re sorry,” she said, pulling away. “We’re just trying to make sense of this. This is all super weird.”
I agreed, very weird. Mira was angry, but she was also very sure of herself, both arrogant and confident. In a lot of ways, she was the yin to Royal’s yang. She could have been the queen to his king, and that wasn’t lost on me.
“Sorry again,” Birdie said. I got another hug before the other girls joined in too. I was in the middle of a bear hug, the extended limbs of Amazon-sized women around me. The whole thing ultimately made me laugh, and I couldn’t be mad at my friends anymore.
I embraced them. “I guess you’re all forgiven,” I said, getting some breath back in when they allowed me to pull away. Soon enough, the rest of the other basketball girls and guys joined us. I noticed very quickly a certain someone wasn’t with them, and thinking back, I hadn’t seen Ramses inside either.
“Ramses?” I asked the girls. They were all starting to get themselves together and leave, all deciding to go meet at a local diner to get something to eat instead of the stress of the burial. I think it was all just too much, too weird.
Birdie shoved her hands in her coat, the weather still a little chilly in the Midwest. “I didn’t expect him today. Actually, I didn’t even see him on assembly day. I texted him, but I guess his parents took him out of town.”
Why hadn’t I noticed? Clearly, a shitty friend. My new obsession with Royal Prinze had something to do with that, I was sure, and coming in for another hug, I told the girls I’d talk to them later. They left, and I got out my phone, trying to correct past wrongs.
Me: Hey, stranger. You all good? Didn’t see you at the funeral. Mira’s?
I hadn’t seen him at the assembly either, obviously since he wasn’t there. I just should have noticed.
God, you’re so self-involved.
The bubble came up from Ramses’s text, and as I waited, I noticed Royal, Jax, Knight, and LJ talking to Sheriff Ashford. I hadn’t seen the sheriff since the assembly, but what’s peculiar was, he was just as much of a mess now as he was that day. Royal himself was actually holding him up a little, the man crying. The sheriff had a fist over his mouth; from the looks of it, it was all he could do to keep himself together.
Ramses: Dude, I know. Crazy, right? Mira? And yeah, I’m good. I meant to text. Dad took me out of town. Some weird bonding thing.
I gazed away from the text as I watched another join the boys and Sheriff Ashford, Mr. Prinze. The middle-aged man looked like an older version of Royal himself, tall, dark, and maybe handsome if he didn’t freak the shit out of me. He wore a black pea coat, relieving Royal when he reached a hand out and put it on the sheriff’s back. He guided him away from Royal and his friends, talking quietly to the man. Eventually, Sheriff Ashford nodded his head and allowed himself to be detoured away. Heads together, Sheriff Ashford listened while Royal’s dad talked, the pair putting distance between themselves and Royal and the other boys.
Me: Okay. Just keep in touch. This town is insane.
Ramses: Don’t I know it. You check in too. I’ll let you know when I’m back in town.
Pocketing my phone, I made my way over to Royal. The guys were still staring off at Sheriff Ashford and Royal’s dad. Mr. Prinze had placed the man in a chauffeured car that pulled up right in front of the church. After, the man in the dark coat turned back, staring directly back at us.
Royal panned away then, the other guys narrowing their eyes. Mr. Prinze joined the sheriff in the back of the car, and as they cruised away, I shook my head.
“What was that about?” I asked, burying my hands deep in my own coat. I wouldn’t miss these cold days, spring not able to come soon enough. We were seeing bouts of it, the weather not so cool, but everything was still dead around, no flowers. With almost no acknowledgment to what I said at all, Royal placed a hand behind my back. He started to guide us to walk away, but I wasn’t fucking having that. I grabbed his down coat. “I asked you a question.”
“Yeah, and if you’d give me a second to talk, I’d answer it.” He passed things off with his signature cool smile, but that wasn’t working on me. I was still pissed and didn’t like being ignored. He pinched my chin. “It’s nothing. I’m sure the man’s just grieving.”
He pulled me in when he guided another hand to my face. “Yeah,” he said, but when I looked confused, he frowned. “You know, since the sheriff is Mira’s dad?”
What the fuck? I so didn’t know that. Not at all. “Uh, yeah. Didn’t know that.”
He blinked, this obviously surprising him. His hands settled at my neck. “Well, that’s what that was about. He and my dad are friends. Dad’s escorting him to the burial.”
He and his dad were friends? His dad was friends with the very man who I believed helped cover up that my sister did a haze. It was a haze and a time I didn’t understand. That was something Royal was supposed to help me with understanding.
He seemed not too hard-pressed to share all that now, starting to walk away, and I hit my wit’s end.
“You told me something, Royal,” I said, making him stop full stop. Right in the parking lot. All the boys did, LJ, Knight, and Jax. They turned, staring at me. My nostrils flared. “You told me you’d tell me everything. You told me you’d tell me the truth.”
And he seemed not only to not want to do that now, but was passing it off.
I didn’t understand.
What happened to what he said to me, how I couldn’t be owned and we were going to do this together?
I stood up to him, and though he didn’t look at me, I made him when I tugged on his jacket again. “You said you’d tell me everything.”
His gaze hovered on me, the jump hard in his throat. Slowly, his sight veered over to his friends, but turning away, LJ, Jax, and Knight clearly weren’t going to be a lifeline for him. They were leaving him to this as they should. This, what was going on here, was only between us.
Royal squeezed big hands over my shoulders. “Em…”
“Don’t ‘Em’ me.” I wiggled out of his hold. “The truth, now. Do you know why Mira took her life?”
He blanched. “Of course not.”
“Why of course not?” I stepped up to him again. “You know she threatened me? Threatened you? She said she had something on you.”
“Well, that had nothing to do with this. At least I think it didn’t.” He bunched a hand through sandy blond locks. “I don’t know why she killed herself.”
“But you do know a lot of things. A lot of things you’re not telling me, but have no problem giving secret glances about to your boys.”
Those friends here too, they shoved hands into their pockets. Both Jax and LJ turned away, Jax curiously silent. He was always the one to raise a voice about something. He was always the one to joke but apparently not today. He cleared his throat, and in those moments of silence, someone surprising stepped forward, Knight when he pushed a hand on Royal’s shoulder.
“We can protect her better if she’s a part of this,” he edged, causing Royal’s green eyes to close. “Come on, bro. You told us you were going to tell her everything too.”
He had? Told them everything about us? So what had changed?
I saw that all over Royal’s face, a torture haunting those emerald-colored eyes. He had a debate there, one that hadn’t been there before when we were in his bed. It was there now.
He pushed out a breath. “It’s going to take all night to get where we need to go,” he said, his perfect jaw working. “So you’re going to need to pack a bag.”

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