Chapter no 49 – GRAYSON

The Brothers Hawthorne

They went back to the bank. Grayson half-expected Acacia to make all three of them wait in the parking lot, but she didn’t. And when she presented her identification and the key that Savannah gave her—the decoy that Grayson had swapped in—the same bank employee who had sent Savannah away called for his manager.

That manager walked them back to the vault. Inside, there were walls of safe-deposit boxes. The manager inserted the bank’s key into one of the slots and waited for Acacia to insert hers. She did, but when she went to twist it, nothing happened.

She tried again.

I planned this. Grayson ignored the stab of guilt. This is what was supposed to happen.

“If you don’t have the key, ma’am, and you’re not the primary account holder, then I’m afraid you’re going to have to—”

The bank manager didn’t get the chance to finish that sentence. Savannah reached beneath the high-necked shirt she was wearing and pulled out a chain, identical to Gigi’s.

On the end of the chain, there was another key. “Try mine,” Savannah said.

Grayson stared at her.

“Since when do you have a key?” Gigi asked.

“I found it,” Savannah said quietly, “with the ID.”

Grayson Hawthorne was not often taken by surprise. This is what happens when you fail to look ten steps ahead. Tobias Hawthorne’s voice

was as clear in his head as if the old man were right there. When you let your emotions get in the way. When you allow yourself to become distracted.

Savannah slid the key off her chain and handed it to her mother. Acacia placed it in the lock. And this time, when she turned it, the lock clicked.

The bank manager carefully removed the box from the wall and set it down on a tall glass table in the middle of the room. “I’ll give you a moment,” he said.

Acacia looked at her daughters in turn, then Grayson. Slowly, she opened the lid to the box.

The first thing Grayson saw was a photo of himself.



Grayson stared at the massive ring of keys. The alternative was looking at the old man, who must have followed him all the way across the estate to the tree house.

“Yours wasn’t the slowest time,” Tobias Hawthorne commented, no particular emphasis in his tone. “But neither was it the fastest.”

Grayson watched as his grandfather bent and laid the ring of ornate keys down on the tree house floor. There were easily a hundred keys on the ring, each with a distinct head, many of them elaborately designed and delicately made. The challenge had been to figure out which key opened the newly installed lock on Hawthorne House’s grand front door.

Grayson had come in third.

“Jameson won.” Grayson set his jaw, refusing to allow that to bother him. It was a simple fact, after all, and the only thing that his grandfather respected as much as winning was control.

“Do you think it was a competition?” Tobias Hawthorne queried, cocking his head slightly to one side. “I was aiming more for rite of passage.”

After completion, they’d each been given a bronze pin, fashioned in the shape of a key. Grayson could feel his digging into the palm of his hand now. “Then why are you here talking about my time?”

The question came out cool, measured. Good.

“Jameson wanted to win.” The old man’s tone betrayed something else now: appreciation.

Grayson did not let himself look down. “Jameson always wants to win.”

The look in his grandfather’s eyes said exactly, but his mouth said, “And sometimes you let him.”

“I didn’t let him win,” Grayson said, and this time, he nearly lost control, biting out the words. He reeled his frustration back in and gave his

grandfather a cool, detached stare. “Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Tobias Hawthorne smiled. “Yes and no.” He stared at Grayson like a man used to answering his own questions, like he could get every answer he wanted just from looking at Grayson’s face. “Tell me where you went wrong.”

The prompt was soft in volume, neither gentle nor harsh in tone.

Grayson felt it like a blow. He let his gaze go down to the keys, tracing back over his method of solving them. “I was looking for a code, concentrating on the wrong thing.”

“Complicating something in no need of complication?” his grandfather suggested. “And in doing so, you failed to see the whole picture.”

There was no word on the planet that twelve-year-old Grayson hated more than any version of the word fail.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be” came the immediate response. “Don’t ever be sorry, Grayson. Be better.”

“It was just a game.” Grayson kept his voice completely steady this time.

The old man smiled. “I enjoy seeing you play. Nothing brings me more satisfaction than seeing you and your brothers enjoying yourselves, enjoying a challenge.”

Then why are you here?

“I’m not upset you lost,” the old man continued, as if he was perfectly capable of hearing Grayson’s unspoken thoughts. “I am, however, concerned that you are beginning to seem comfortable with losing.”

“I don’t like to lose,” Grayson replied, putting force in those words. “Is that an unusual trait?” came the reply. “An extraordinary one?” No one likes to lose. Grayson expelled a breath. “No.”

“Are you unusual?” his grandfather pressed. “Extraordinary?”

“Yes,” Grayson bit out, the words exiting his mouth with the strength of a vow.

“Then tell me, Grayson, why am I here?”

This was another test. Another challenge. And Grayson had no intention of failing again.

“Because I have to be more,” he replied, his voice low, intense.

“Be more,” his grandfather said, matching Grayson’s tone with his own.

“Do more. Faster. Stronger. Smarter. More cunning. Why?

Grayson spoke the only answer that felt true. “Because I can.” He had the potential. He’d always had the potential. He had to live up to it.

“Pick up the keys,” his grandfather said. Grayson did as he was told. “They’re beautiful, are they not? You weren’t wrong to look for meaning in them. I designed each and every one myself. The story of my life is in those keys.”

For the first time, this confrontation seemed less like one of his grandfather’s lessons and more like the kind of conversation an ordinary boy might have with his ordinary grandfather. For a moment, Grayson let himself expect the old man to tell him that story—some part of it that he didn’t already know.

But Tobias Hawthorne wasn’t an ordinary grandfather. “Some people can make mistakes, Grayson. But you are not one of those people. Why?”

“Because I’m a Hawthorne.”

“No.” For the first time, the old man’s tone grew harsh. “You’re failing again. Right here. Right now. You are failing.”

There was nothing—nothing—he could have said that would have cut more.

“Xander is a Hawthorne,” the old man said intently. “Nash is a Hawthorne. Jameson is a Hawthorne. But you…” Tobias Hawthorne took Grayson’s chin in his hands and tilted it up, making sure that he had his grandson’s complete and undivided attention. “You’re not Jameson. What is acceptable for him is not acceptable for you. And do you know why?

There it was again. The question. The test. Failure was not an option. Grayson nodded.

“Tell me why, Grayson,” the old man said.

“Because,” Grayson replied, his voice coming out hoarse, “someday, it’s going to be me.”

He’d never said the words before, but on some level, he’d known it. On some level, they all had, for as long as Grayson could remember. The old man wasn’t going to live forever. He needed an heir. Someone capable of taking on the mantle, of doing what the old man did.

Growing the fortune. Protecting the family.

“It is going to be you,” Tobias Hawthorne agreed, letting go of

Grayson’s chin. “Be worthy—and never speak a word of this conversation to your brothers.”

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