Chapter no 21 – GRAYSON

The Brothers Hawthorne

This is Dad’s office,” Gigi told Grayson. She gestured to a sleek desktop computer. “I found the key to the safe-deposit box in there last week, affixed to an index card that was affixed to the inside of the computer, near the cooling fan.”

Grayson assumed that Gigi would, at some point, explain what they were doing in the study. For the time being, she’d given him an entry. He took it. “May I see the key?” he asked, nodding to the chain around her neck.

Steal the key. Subvert her search for the name.

Gigi reached back to unclasp her necklace, then handed it over to Grayson. He examined the key. Making it disappear was one option, but the better option might be making and swapping in a duplicate—and not a perfect one. Just flawed enough that it won’t open the safe-deposit box.

“May I take a picture of the key?” Grayson asked. “I want a closer look at the etchings here.” He rubbed his thumb over the head of the key, which bore the name of the bank. “There’s some chance that the key identifies the number of the box that it opens.”

“And if we had that,” Gigi said, thrilled to her bones, “we wouldn’t have to figure out the name dad used to figure out which box this key goes to!”

Steeling himself against her beaming smile, Grayson took a series of photographs of the key with his phone. Not just of the head of the key—and not just from one angle. If he could create a 3D rendering, he could easily have a decoy made.

For show, he pulled up one of the photos and zoomed in on the etchings.

“You’re really doing this,” Savannah stated sharply beside him. “With her.” Savannah knew how to weaponize silence, even if it was brief. “Because you don’t believe that my father would leave. You don’t believe there could possibly be another woman, because Sheffield Grayson would never cheat on his wife.”

The utter ice in those words was clear. Grayson didn’t let it bother him. Savannah had a right to be angry, and her instincts were good: He couldn’t be trusted.

“I believe,” Grayson told her calmly, “that Gigi is going to do this with or without my help.”

“Affirmative.” The girl in question grinned. “Chaotic good, thy name is Gigi. Let’s talk about step negative one.”

Savannah gave Grayson one last, piercing warning look, then turned to her sister. “Enlighten us.”

Gigi held out a hand to Grayson. “My key, if you please.”

“It’s clean,” Grayson told her, as he handed the necklace back to her. “No number.”

“But we will not be deterred!” Gigi declared. “And before we ransack Duncan’s dad’s office and look through his files—you can yell at me about that later, Sav—I figured we should make sure we’ve covered our bases here.”

“You haven’t already searched this place?” Grayson said mildly. “I have.” Gigi smiled. “You two haven’t.”

If there was anything to be found here, the easiest way of keeping it out of her hands was finding it himself. “You said that the key was affixed to an index card.” Grayson rolled that over in his mind. “Do you still have the card?”

Gigi’s eyes grew saucer round, then she practically dove for the trash can. Victorious, she popped back to her feet. “Here.”

She handed him the card. Grayson noted that it had been cut down from the original size, possibly to fit inside the computer. But why use a card at all? He shrugged for Gigi’s benefit. “It’s just a white card.”

But as soon as she wasn’t looking, he pocketed it. “Put your searching hats on, people.” Gigi grinned.

“I am not helping you with this,” Savannah told her sister emphatically. Gigi patted her arm. “I believe that you believe that, but at a certain

point, you have to ask yourself: Why are you here?”

“Because,” the taller—and older—twin said, “I don’t trust him.”

“Don’t take offense,” Gigi told Grayson. “She only means it in the literal sense. And who among us doesn’t have a few little deeply entrenched trust issues?”

Grayson felt the ends of his lips twitch, wanting to curl upward.

“Just look for anything that could indicate what name Dad might have used to register a secret safe-deposit box,” Gigi instructed. “A fake ID, scrap paper, an external hard drive. Maybe paperwork signed in another name?”

“Did your father have an actual office, off premises?” Grayson put no special emphasis on that question—nothing to make it clear that if the answer was yes, he’d be doing some breaking and entering tonight himself.

“No,” Gigi replied. “Dad sold his company a few weeks after Grammy went to the great Sunday brunch in the sky.”

Not long before he came after Avery. Grayson filed that away.

“Did you try Colin?” Savannah asked Gigi. The question came out quiet. “For the name.” That, more than anything that Acacia had said, told Grayson how much the twins had grown up in the shadow of their long-dead cousin.

“Too obvious,” Gigi replied, her throat seeming to tighten around the words. “But yes.”

Grayson knew what it was like to work and work and never be enough. To lose the person who’d made you and live forever thereafter with the knowledge that they’d preferred someone else.

“If you’re starting with the computer,” he told Gigi briskly, “I’ll try the desk.”



The desk was clean. So were the shelves. The chairs and side tables. The moldings on the walls. Grayson continued to search quickly and efficiently, keeping an eye on the girls as he did. He removed shades from lamps, examined every floorboard with military precision. Finally, he turned his attention to the art: two large landscape paintings on the walls and a bronze

eagle that matched the two sculptures in the fountain outside.

Nothing hidden behind or in them.

That just left two framed photos. One was of a teenage boy midair, a ball arcing from his fingertips. His coloring matched Gigi’s, his sweat-laden hair a mop of chocolate-colored curls. Colin. Grayson removed the picture from the wall and took off its backing. He searched, found nothing, and replaced it. Then he turned to the second photograph, a family portrait. Savannah was straight-faced, Gigi smiling, the two of them dressed in matching outfits. Grayson tried to place their age. Four, maybe five? Behind them, their mother leaned against their father.

They look like a family. They looked happy enough. Normal. There had been nothing normal about his own childhood.

Pushing back against that thought, Grayson removed the frame from the wall and the back from the frame, to no avail. And then he spotted a seam in the wood of the frame.

A seam that had no reason to be there.

Grayson ran his fingers along the side, prodding until he found the trigger. A small piece of wood popped out, revealing a compartment inside the frame—a very small one. Shifting to shield his actions fully from view, Grayson tipped the frame sideways. A small square fell out.

A USB drive.

He palmed it, and less than a second later, it was secured in the cuff of his dress shirt. One more smooth motion set the frame to right, but before he could set it back down, he felt one of the girls approach. Savannah. Without a word, she picked up the photo of Colin. “I don’t know what game you’re playing here, Grayson, and I don’t care.”

Had she seen him take the USB? Grayson didn’t think so and proceeded accordingly. “If you’re about to issue a warning,” he told Savannah softly, “I take it you know your target? What do you have that I want? What do I have that I’m terrified to lose?” He brought his eyes to hers. It felt far too much like looking in a mirror. “What type of person,” he continued, “am I?”

She raised a delicate brow. “Do you really want me to answer that?”

Answering a question with a question. Good.

“You two look cozy!” Gigi declared from across the room.

“Grayson was just about to call it a night,” Savannah said. “We found

nothing, Gigi. There’s nothing to be found. Satisfied?”

“Always,” Gigi replied emphatically. “Also, never! I am full of contradictions.”

Grayson felt another tug toward her, toward both of them—and did his best to dismiss it. “I think we’re done in here,” he said. “What’s step zero?” “The step in between steps negative one and one!” Gigi beamed at him.

“You catch on quickly, my pseudonymous friend.”

“Not quickly enough.” Savannah sidled between the two of them. “It’s getting late.”

Grayson waited for Gigi to object, but she didn’t. “Totally. And step zero involves beauty sleep and outfit selection, because tomorrow night, we party.”

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