Chapter no 82 – JAMESON

The Brothers Hawthorne

Now that Ms. Grambs has been removed from both the premises and the Game, there is the matter of her key.” The Factotum said the word removed in a way that made Jameson want to go for his throat. Rohan hadn’t laid a hand on Avery—not in Jameson’s sight, at least—but now she was gone, and the rest of them were back in the room where this had all started.

“I’m the one who was attacked,” Zella said with an aristocratic tilt of her chin. “That makes the attacker’s key mine, does it not?”

“Where’s Avery?” Jameson demanded. “What did you do with her?” Branford placed a hand on his shoulder. “Easy, nephew.”

“Soft touch,” Katharine scoffed. “You always have been, Simon.”

“Enough.” Rohan held up a hand, silencing all four remaining players. Then he turned to Zella. “Do you really expect me to just hand this over to you?” He brandished the final key.

“No.” Zella’s smile looked almost serene, but to Jameson, it didn’t feel like a smile. “Truthfully, Rohan, I make it a rule to have no expectations at all where you are concerned.”

Rohan openly studied the duchess for a moment, like she was a puzzle he hadn’t quite solved—and didn’t particularly enjoy solving. “As to your question, Mr. Hawthorne,” the Factotum said, his gaze still locked on Zella, “Avery Grambs has been returned to her rather overzealous bodyguard—a touching reunion, I assure you.” With a flourish, Rohan held the key up once more. He hopped onto the stone windowsill “The Game will begin anew,” he announced, “with the striking of the bell.”

The Factotum smiled. Jameson did not trust that smile.

“I sincerely hope,” Rohan continued, jumping down and making his way to the door, “that none of you are afraid of heights.”



Time slowed to a crawl. Jameson turned his attention first to what Rohan had said, then to searching the room from top to bottom again, and finally to the silver chest in his hands. Elaborate, raised swirls marked the top and sides of the box, fine metal fashioned to look like twisting, twirling ropes.

“You may as well set that down, young man,” Katharine told Jameson. She walked toward him and stopped at the table, placing her palms flat on its surface. “You have no use for it as of yet.”

Nice try, Katharine. Jameson gave the older woman a look. “You didn’t know my grandfather, did you?”

Brilliant, mercenary Tobias Hawthorne had raised no fools. Jameson might have lost the key, he might have lost his partner in the Game, but he had the chest, and as long as he held on to it, no one was winning but him.

“This,” Jameson said, his voice low and intense, “is mine.”

“You earned it.” Katharine let her hands fall away from the table. “That’s what you’re telling yourself, is it not?” She let the question hang in the air.

I did earn it, Jameson thought.

“But really…” Katharine’s shrewd eyes locked on to his face. Jameson almost felt like he was back in the old man’s office, his every effort judged. “When have you, Jameson Hawthorne, ever earned anything? Even now, you defend yourself by throwing around your grandfather’s name. What are you without him?” Katharine made a noise like a hmmm, but sharper somehow, more pointed. “Without your heiress?”

Compared to your brothers—Jameson couldn’t shake the memory—

your mind is ordinary.

“In my experience,” Katharine continued, “third-born sons are… disappointing. Always have something to prove, never truly manage to prove it.”

“That’s enough, Katharine,” Branford told her sharply.

The silver-haired woman paid him no heed. “What are you without the

Hawthorne name?” she asked Jameson, each word a slice of the knife. “Without the money. Without borrowing against someone else’s power. Without Avery Grambs by your side.”

Ordinary. Jameson pushed back against that word and all it entailed. He knew Katharine was trying to manipulate him, get under his skin, bait him into making a mistake.

“I said enough, Katharine.” Branford crossed the room to stand right in front of her.

Whatever else the viscount said to her, Jameson couldn’t hear it as he held tight to the chest he’d retrieved, his one advantage in the Game going forward. Jameson Winchester Hawthorne wasn’t giving that up. He wasn’t giving up, period.

What are you without the Hawthorne name?

He wasn’t Grayson, who could command respect as easily as he could breathe, who was Avery’s right hand at her new foundation, who had pretty much been born with purpose. He wasn’t Xander, who turned napkin doodles into patents and thought so far outside the box that sometimes he couldn’t even see the box. Jameson wasn’t even Nash, who’d spent most of his adult life pretending his last name wasn’t Hawthorne and gotten by just fine.

The truth, Jameson, is that you are indeed intelligent. But what had he done with his gap year? What had he ever really done, period, that was his? Not Avery’s. Not his grandfather’s. His.

Do great things. Jameson had spent his entire life knowing that if he wanted to be extraordinary, he had to want it more. He had to be willing to risk more.

Third-born sons are… disappointing.

Jameson banished that thought, banished every memory of coming in second—or third or fourth. He breathed in a ragged breath, then a steady one. He kept right on breathing.

And then the bell rang.

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