Aubrey Lane Arrington was given a choice and one week to decide - does she want to stay at Eastbrooke Academy or go to school in London?
So much has happened since then that could affect her decision.
Her former best friend, Branson, started a fight with her boyfriend, Prince Augie. And when the event is live streamed and goes viral, it has the makings of an international scandal.
The school is buzzing with gossip.
Is Aubrey really pregnant?
Is it Prince Augie’s baby?
And is the British royal family going to allow Augie to stay at Eastbrooke after this?
Despite it all, staying at Eastbrooke feels right.
Aubrey loves her house.
And Augie is all for it.
But when classes start and she and Branson are forced to spend time together, she’s not sure all the pros outweigh the one big con.
Will she go with her heart and choose Eastbrooke, or will she leave Eastbrooke - and Branson- for good?
Eastbrooke Academy series is the next generation of the USA Today bestselling series, The Keatyn Chronicles. Filled with angst, cute preppy boys, and teen drama, Eastbrooke Academy is perfect for readers looking for:
* Contemporary teen romance books
* Binge-worthy series you can’t put down
* Gossip Girl meets The Summer I Turned Pretty
* Friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, royalty romance
* Characters you want to be bffs with
Release date: September 19, 2023
Publisher: Swoonworthy Books
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Popularity Isn't Easy (Eastbrooke Academy Book 2)
Friday, August 26th
A little offended.
Johnny steps over the puke, avoiding getting any on his velvet shoes, and takes my hand. “I’m surprised you don’t puke glitter, Sparkles. Let’s get you upstairs and into bed.”
I hear Betsy mutter to Danielle, “Probably what got her into trouble in the first place.” Then they both giggle.
To this, I laugh.
“The it’s a boy comment was brilliant,” Laurent says, following us. “And Betsy sucks.”
“She likes Beckham, thought he liked her back, and now that she knows he doesn’t, she’s upset. And most girls can relate. But she shouldn’t take it out on me. So, while I sympathize with her, I also agree that she sucks.”
Johnny leads me into his room, flips his covers back, and motions for me to get in his bed.
I don’t argue, just slide between his sheets.
Then I run my fingers across them because they are so soft. “Laurent, come feel these.”
He sits on the bed carefully, probably because he thinks I might puke again, then caresses the sheets.
“Why don’t my sheets feel this way?” he wonders.
“Well, first of all,” Johnny says, “yours are probably just made of cotton. These are custom-crafted from the finest merino wool, backed by my signature silk paisley, then added to a thousand-count Egyptian cotton sateen sheet.”
I look at him. “I’m totally in love with the embroidery at the top. It’s gorgeous, and it shines in the light like gold.”
“That’s because it is,” Johnny replies. “Twenty-four karat gold from my family’s mine is woven into the fabric.”
“Amazing,” I say. And I mean it.
“You’ll be sleeping on a similar set on my yacht in the near future. We have school this week and then a break for the Labor Day holiday. I think it would be fun to get away. How would you feel about spending a few days at sea?”
“Can we go now?” I tease, suddenly realizing that I’m feeling better. Must have gotten the last of the junk food out of me. I’m also thirsty. “Hey, what are you drinking?” I take in the pale color and little bubbles in Johnny’s glass. “Oh my gosh, Johnny, is that champagne?”
He lets out a little huff. “It is.”
“But I thought we were going to bond over it.” I push my bottom lip out in a pout.
“We’ve already bonded, Sparkles, but …” he says, looking toward my stomach.
“Oh, right. My condition.”
“You haven’t told us one way or another yet,” Johnny says.
“We’d support you either way,” Laurent quickly adds.
“So, the real question is,” Johnny says with a sympathetic grin, “do we need to turn Laurent’s mostly unused closet into a nursery?”
I laugh. “You guys, I’m not pregnant.”
“I knew it!” Johnny practically yells. “You’re still a virgin, right?”
“What do you mean, you knew it?”
“Answer the question,” Johnny states.
I scoff, feeling a little irritated. “Do you think that I’m not, like, pretty enough for someone to want to have sex with me?”
“Not at all. It’s just the way you handle yourself around men.”
He sighs. “You don’t seem experienced.”
“Although I’m a little offended by this conversation, I would like to know what you mean by that.”
“You’re not very good at flirting even though you try and somehow manage to come off as endearing.”
“What? I can flirt. I mean, I must be able to because, hello, Augie asked me to be his girlfriend.” I narrow my eyes at him. “I’d hate to have to puke all over these amazing sheets.”
Johnny is not impressed by my threat. “I think there’s been enough drama tonight. How about some bubbly?”
I turn to Laurent and give him puppy-dog eyes. “I sort of flirted with you, didn’t I?”
He smiles at me and says, “You definitely did,” even though we both know he’s lying. “But now, I’m curious too.”
“I haven’t had sex yet. What about you?”
“My status mimics yours,” he replies.
“Mine doesn’t!” Johnny sings.
“I think we knew that,” I tease him as he opens his armoire, revealing a silver bucket filled with two chilled bottles on a tray with crystal flutes.
He pours Laurent and me each a glass and gives them to us.
“To good sheet,” I say, holding my flute up in a toast.
“And good friends,” Laurent adds.
“And fine champagne,” Johnny says. “I was thinking about going downstairs to putter around in the kitchen. There was really nothing worth eating at the carnival. Although I don’t normally cook, our family chef insisted that I learn to make two meals should I ever have to fend for myself—eggs and grilled cheese.” He gives Laurent a raised eyebrow, then grins at me. “Do you have a preference, milady?”
“Grilled cheese, for sure,” I tell him. “What do you think, Laurent?”
“Sounds like the perfect end to an imperfect day,” he replies as Johnny breezes out of the room.
I snuggle down into the sheets a little more, then turn to face Laurent. “That’s an interesting thing to say.”
He puts his arm behind his neck and stares up at the ceiling. “It’s crazy that I’m here. At Eastbrooke. Where she went. I don’t understand how she could keep something like a family from me.” He rolls his eyes. “She used the quote often. Particularly after a bad day. Said you can always turn your day around by having a good moment at the end of it.”
“She sounds smart. And don’t judge her for not telling you. I get that you feel kind of betrayed, but imagine how she must have felt. I was thinking about all that when I was getting ready for the carnival. And I wonder if your father even really knew.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, obviously, your mom lied about some stuff.”
“A lot of stuff.”
“But people like your father—”
“If he’s even my father—”
“Are often surrounded by other people. Like, we don’t know what happened.”
“What are you trying to say?”
I let out a sigh. “Okay, so there was this movie I watched not too long ago. Surprisingly similar situation, only the mom and her son happen to run into mom’s former flame and, gasp, the father of her son. But the man never knew she was actually pregnant because she told one of his staff, and then the staff person was worried he’d lose his job because he had been covering up the affair, so he told the woman that the father of her child didn’t want anything to do with her. But, he lied. And when they meet, the dad can clearly see the son favors him.”
“And what happened then?” Laurent asks, already totally invested.
“They finally talk to each other, they kiss, and of course, they live happily ever after together—but not before they figure out what transpired and fire the meddling assistant.”
“Was that one of your mother’s movies?” he guesses.
“She directed it. And the crazy thing is, it was based on a real-life story.”
“So, you think my mom sold your mom the story?”
“Ohmigawd! I never thought of that. I was just pointing out that stuff like that does happen. But … wow. Do you think?”
“Who knows?” Laurent says, rolling over toward me, his face landing so close that our noses almost touch.
I look at him cross-eyed and laugh.
“You seem like you’re feeling a lot better,” he says just as Johnny kicks the door open and enters the room with a tray of food in his hands.
Laurent pops up to help him.
“I’ve got it,” Johnny says, setting the tray on his bed and revealing six perfectly grilled sandwiches cut into neat triangles.
“Those look too good to eat!” I exclaim. “How did you get them so perfectly browned without smooshing them?”
“I melted the cheese slightly before putting it between the bread and only ever use salted Irish butter.”
“Let me guess. You brought your own butter?” Laurent says with a chuckle.
“I most certainly did. As well as caviar, truffles, and an array of spices. I’m also considering offering our chef a job here at Hawthorne. We would dine like kings every day.”
We each grab a triangle, hold it up, and touch them together in some kind of grilled-cheese toast before taking a bite.
I will admit to being a little tentative at first, but I quickly down it.
“Um, that was freaking delicious,” I comment.
Laurent grins and says to me, “I thought you had ruined me with champagne and cupcakes. But this vintage version with grilled cheese might have topped it.” He raises his glass back in the air. “To all the good sheeeeet.”
Not long after we finish our snack, I kiss Johnny’s cheeks, wish both him and Laurent good night, and go to my room. I’m suddenly feeling exhausted.
I want to curl up into a ball in my bed but need to shower off the grime of the carnival.
Of everything that happened tonight.
Actually, what I wish is that I could take a bath. Should have chosen Calder, I think to myself, but then I quickly shake my head, very happy I didn’t end up in the same house as Branson.
Saturday, August 27th
Because I forgot to close my curtains when I went to sleep, the light wakes me up early this morning. I lie in bed and think about all that happened last night. And wonder how I’m going to face everyone today.
It’s really kind of crazy that girls like Betsy and Danielle, who might not be abstaining from sex, would make fun of a girl who had sex and got pregnant. It’s such a double standard, and it makes me feel more sympathy for teen moms. It also makes me wonder if that’s how Waverly’s mom, my aunt Gracie, felt. Part of me wants to call her. To ask. To see how she handled it. Truth be told, there was a night before I left London when I seriously considered doing it with Augie. But I decided to wait, hoping that once I got back, he’d ask me to be his girlfriend.
Now, I kind of wish I hadn’t waited.
Because he probably would have told me he loved me then and not at Eastbrooke, sitting outside the dean’s office, after getting in a fight with my former best friend.
Seriously, I feel like Branson has become the Voldemort in my life—He Who Must Not Be Named.
But, on the other hand, Augie could have told me that I wasn’t worth the trouble. That I wasn’t worth his getting in a fight. Especially when I know his family is going to be upset and have to deal with the social media fallout. Something I’m sure my parents will have to handle as well. I should call them. Tell them the truth.
But I’m mad at them.
Mad at the way they treated me last night. Mad they thought it was okay to discuss something so personal in front of the dean and He Who Must Not Be Named.
I take a fortifying breath and look at my phone for the first time since the carnival.
There are numerous missed calls and texts from my parents, London, and Waverly. I scroll down to check out the texts.
Waverly: Tried to call, but … I realize that the other night I said some things about my parents getting pregnant with me and regretting it. About how I was afraid to have sex because of it. I left the carnival early because after eating all that junk food and then going on the roller coaster, I felt nauseous and went back to the house. London called me and told me what happened. And I watched the video. I’m so sorry. I’m sitting here in tears, thinking that you could have known you were pregnant when I said all that. And just know, no matter what you decide to do, I will support you fiercely.
I scroll to the next one.
London: OMG! Is that why Augie came to Eastbrooke?
London: Sorry, that was probably rude, but I text the way I think. I tried to call you, and I’m just, well, in shock. I saw the tail end of the fight. Heard what Branson said. Is it true? And if it is, why didn’t you tell us?
London: I’m resorting to answering my own questions since you aren’t responding. The logical reason is that after hearing Waverly go on about it, you thought maybe we wouldn’t support you.
London: But just so you know, we would. Well, I would.
London: I don’t know how it is in your house, but here at Calder, everyone is talking about it. The girls seem to range between thinking you are a slut and swooning over the fact that you are carrying a royal heir.
London: Anyway, call me. Text me. Anytime.
I keep scrolling, skipping over texts from my parents, my eyes landing on one from Augie.
HRH: I finally got to leave the dean’s office and go see a nurse, who patched me up. Unfortunately, that required some stitches. And it is quite possible that I threw up during the process. I’m blaming it on the cotton candy and all the other sweets we consumed. But, I will admit, I half-expected her to ask me if I was pregnant too.
To that, I laugh.
HRH: We need to decide what we are going to tell everyone. I haven’t discussed it with my parents yet because you were so adamant about not telling yours. I do need to tell them though. Not tonight, of course. I wasn’t thrilled with their reaction either. Just to be clear, I’d be totally chuffed if you were having my baby. Ecstatic. Preferably when we’re older though. If it were true, I suspect we’d both be flipping out.
That we would be.
HRH: I hope you are feeling better and getting some sleep. Text me when you see this.
What follows is a text from Branson. I don’t want to ruin the way I’m feeling by reading it. I should scroll past it.
But I don’t.
I do, however, stop and change his name in my Contacts.
Very mature, I know.
Asshole: You know the royal family is going to make you terminate your pregnancy, right? I heard them discussing it on the phone with Augie when I was outside the dean’s office. That’s how much they all care about you. He doesn’t love you. No matter what he says. And are you really going to believe him over me?
I tell myself not to reply.
Not to take the bait.
Because Branson’s an idiot.
He was drunk.
And I don’t care what he thinks.
But apparently, I don’t have much willpower.
Me: Actions speak louder than words. And Augie’s reaction to all this has been pure perfection because he’s the kind of boy I’ve always dreamed of.
I’m surprised when he immediately texts me back.
Asshole: You used to dream about being with me.
Me: You led me on. But then I discovered that you are not at all my type.
Asshole: Because I’m not a prince.
Me: Exactly, because every girl dreams of finding her own prince—whether they are royal or not. They want someone who loves them fiercely, who treats them well, and who will defend their honor. Sound familiar? Also, please note that I’m blocking your number. I might be stuck at Eastbrooke with you, but I have no desire to talk to you ever again.
I go to block him before I change my mind, but since I’ve never blocked anyone before, I have to look up how to do it.
Then I do.
I also learn that the number you block doesn’t get a notification that you’ve blocked them. They can still send you texts—you just never have to see them.
And that sounds like the perfect arrangement.
If only I could block him from my life as well.
Then I could go to school with him, but never hear him speak.
Never have to see his face.
And never have to relive his betrayal.
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