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Chapter no 30 – GRAYSON

The Brothers Hawthorne

So your name really is Grayson.” That was Gigi’s takeaway once the two of them had extricated themselves from the party. “And you’re famous. That could complicate things, but as a rule, I’m in favor of complications.” She led him to a door in another wing that definitely should have been locked. “I am also in favor of lock-picking.” Gigi smiled serenely as she pushed the door inward. “Voilà.”

Grayson glanced at the lock as he stepped into the room. It wasn’t an easy model to pick. “Been planning on a life of crime for a while?” he asked.

“I get bored easily,” Gigi informed him. “And when I’m bored, I learn things. All kinds of things.” The emphasis she put on the word all was mildly concerning, but it wasn’t his priority at the moment.

Grayson scanned Kent Trowbridge’s home office with military precision and a Hawthorne’s eye for detail. There were built-in shelves along three walls, and the spacing on two of them didn’t match the third. The expensive rug covering the dark wood floors had a fringe that was tangled at one corner. All the cabinets and drawers had locks. There wasn’t a single family photo, though there was a painting of Trowbridge himself, hanging just behind the desk.

Gigi made a beeline for the computer. She tapped at the keys, then began searching through papers on the top of the desk. “I’ve known Mr. Trowbridge my whole life. He thinks he’s tech-savvy, but I would bet big money he has his passwords written down somewhere.”

Leaving Gigi to her search, Grayson squatted to observe the tangled

fringe on the rug. He flipped the corner back and was rewarded with the key to the desk.

“You are magic,” Gigi declared. She slid across the desk, ballerina leapt to his side, snatched the key from his hand, and had the desk drawers open in three seconds flat.

“Victory!”

Grayson crossed to her side of the desk. There, taped to the bottom of the drawer, was a piece of paper containing at least forty passwords.

Gigi scanned them. “This one’s labeled DTC.” She pointed to a password three down from the top, which began with those three letters. “Desktop computer.”

Grayson considered trying to get between Gigi and the computer but assessed his likelihood of success as poor. Instead, he slipped his phone out of his pocket, took a picture of the passwords, closed and locked the drawers, and returned the key to its original location under the rug.

“Covering our tracks,” he told Gigi. And assuring that I’m the one with the rest of the passwords. As an attorney, tech-savvy or not, Trowbridge would almost certainly have privileged documents password-protected or saved to a secure server. For now, the computer would keep Gigi busy, allowing Grayson to tend to other matters.

One couldn’t grow up in Hawthorne House without learning to spot a shelf that wasn’t just a shelf. It didn’t take Grayson long to locate a hinge— or the release. As soon as he’d triggered it, the shelf opened like a door. Behind it, built into a recess on the wall, was a safe.

Grayson glanced back at Gigi, who was so thoroughly immersed in searching the computer that she noticed nothing. She’s got an external hard drive. Grayson registered that as he returned his attention to the safe. Unlike Gigi, he hadn’t learned to pick locks out of boredom. The walls of his childhood playroom had been lined with them, each one a puzzle, a challenge. And when it came to challenges, a Hawthorne never really had a choice. All four brothers knew how to crack certain types of combination locks.

The only question was if this was one of them.

Grayson brought his hand up to the dial, and then he heard something. Voices, out in the hall. Without a moment’s hesitation, he righted the bookshelf, obscuring the safe. He darted to the door, flipped the lock, then

looked back at Gigi, who was staring at the shelves now obscuring the safe, which she had most definitely noticed.

The voices in the hallway drew closer.

Grayson met Gigi’s eyes. She shook her head, then gestured emphatically to the computer and the external hard drive. Her meaning was clear: She wasn’t done. He heard the distinct sound of a key being slipped into a lock. In a single motion, Grayson bounded across the room, grabbed Gigi, and sank with her to the floor behind the desk. She wiggled out of his grasp enough to dart a hand up and turn the monitor off just as the door to the office opened.

“You wanted privacy.” That voice was male, but it did not belong to Kent Trowbridge. “You’ve got it.”

“I just needed a moment to breathe.” Savannah. Grayson recognized her voice instantly. Which suggests the other belongs to a Trowbridge—just not the father.

“You’re breathing just fine, baby.”

Grayson did not trust the boy’s tone. He turned his head slightly, silently, leaning so that he could barely see past the edge of the desk. Duncan Trowbridge hooked an arm around Savannah from behind, placing a hand flat on her stomach. That hand creeped upward.

“You could be nicer to people, you know,” Duncan murmured. “Including me.”

Grayson’s jaw tensed. He had no right to watch this, so he averted his eyes just as Duncan Trowbridge’s hand made it to the strap of Savannah’s top—and began working that strap down.

“I’m nice enough.” Savannah’s tone could have cut glass, but she didn’t step away from the boy. Grayson would have heard it if she had.

“Show me how nice you can be.”

“Come on, Duncan.” Now there was a step, an audible click against the part of the floor that wasn’t covered by the rug.

“You’re my girlfriend, Savannah.”

Grayson heard another step—this one, Duncan’s. Closing in on her.

Bastard.

“You’re beautiful,” the boy continued, and the words struck Grayson as accusatory.

“We should get back to the party.” Savannah didn’t sound distressed.

She sounded like a person with an ironclad grip on control.

“You’re the one who said you wanted privacy.” Duncan seemed to be trying to make those words low and inviting, but they must not have had the effect he intended. “What, you wanted privacy from me, too?”

“No.” Savannah spoke clearly. “Of course not.”

Was Grayson imagining the strain in her voice? Now that Savannah and Duncan had moved, he couldn’t see anything of either of them except for their feet. He looked to Gigi, whose eyes were wide.

“Then relax,” Duncan murmured. Was she okay?

“I am relaxed.”

“Just let me touch you.”

Savannah’s heels sidestepped. “We should get back to the party. To your friends.”

“Be nice. They’re our friends.” He stepped closer to her even than he’d been before. She didn’t move. “Be nice,” Duncan Trowbridge murmured again, and whatever he was doing, Savannah just stood there.

Get your hands off my sister. Grayson could feel the words building inside him. It didn’t matter that saying them would reveal his presence in a room where he was not supposed to be. It didn’t matter that Savannah didn’t consider him her brother or that Gigi didn’t even know they were related.

Savannah had said—twice—that she wanted to go back to the party. She’d stepped away from her boyfriend. Twice. And all he’d had to say to that was Be nice.

Grayson stood, flowing to his feet with power and grace, but before he could say or do anything, Gigi popped up beside him. “Fancy meeting you two here!” she said loudly.

Duncan stepped abruptly back from Savannah, who righted her clothes. “Gigi?” Duncan appeared confused—and possibly inebriated. That shall

make killing him easier. “What the hell?” Duncan turned to Savannah. “Did you know she was back there?”

Savannah shot Gigi a withering look—and Grayson a worse one. “I did not.”

Duncan suddenly remembered where they were and scowled. “What are you and this guy doing in my dad’s—”

Grayson didn’t wait for the kid to finish the sentence. “Walk away.” Duncan blinked. “Excuse me?”

Holding on to his fury by a hair, Grayson exercised steellike restraint in taking just one more step. “Walk. Away.”

Duncan turned to Savannah. “Who the hell is this guy?”

You’re about to find out, Grayson thought, but Gigi hopped in front of him and offered up her own answer to the question. “He’s… my new boyfriend!”

Grayson was horrified. By the look of Savannah’s expression, she was the same.

“Boyfriend?” Duncan repeated dumbly.

“I am not her boyfriend,” Grayson said emphatically.

Gigi elbowed him in the ribs. “He doesn’t like labels,” she declared. “And we were here for the same reason as you two. Privacy.”

“No,” Grayson gritted out. “No privacy!”

“I’m going back to the party.” Savannah looked to Duncan. “Are you coming?”

She brushed past him. Grayson didn’t expect that to work, but Duncan Trowbridge was apparently less concerned with the intruders in his father’s study than he was with his own frustration. As the two of them made it to the hall, Grayson heard the boy mutter, “You don’t have to be such a bitch.” Grayson lunged forward, and Gigi popped in front of him again.

Logically, Grayson knew that picking a fight with Duncan Trowbridge wasn’t a good idea. Logically, he knew that Savannah wouldn’t thank him for it.

“Breathe,” Gigi advised him.

Grayson did. “I thought,” he said, his voice razor-sharp, “you said he was boring.” That wasn’t the word Grayson would have used to describe what they’d just seen and overheard.

“I’ve never heard him talk to her like that,” Gigi replied, her voice uncharacteristically quiet. “They’re normally so… perfect.”

The word hit Grayson like a slap. How many times had he heard himself described that way? How many times had he punished himself for being anything less?

Gigi walked back to the desk. She turned the computer monitor back on. “Transfer complete,” she reported quietly. She glanced over at the

bookshelves. “Any chance you know how we can get into that safe?”

There was a chance, a good one, but not as good as the chance that if anything went missing, Kent Trowbridge would talk to his son and demand to know who’d had access to his study. I can always come back.

Would it be legal? No. Would it be easy? Likely not.

But neither of those things could stop a Hawthorne. “No,” Grayson told Gigi. “And we should go before anyone else figures out we’re in here. I’ve got the passwords.” He nodded toward the hard drive. “What did you download?”

“All the PDFs, docs, and image files.” Gigi paused. “I should check on Savannah. She likes to pretend that she doesn’t have feelings to hurt, but…”

But. The muscles in Grayson’s abdomen tightened. “I can take the hard drive.”

“That’s okay,” Gigi told him. “I can store it in my cleavage.” Grayson blanched.

“Kidding! I don’t have cleavage. But I do have a purse. And I fully intend to stay up all night going through files, once I convince my sister to bail on this party. Can you send me the passwords?”

After I make some alterations. As the two of them exited the office, Grayson scanned the hall and his gaze landed on a window. On the front lawn, near the street, he could make out a figure leaning lazily back against a truck.

The figure wore a cowboy hat.

“Grayson?” Gigi prompted. “You’ll send me the passwords, right?”

“I will,” Grayson confirmed. “But there’s something I have to take care of first.”

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