Chapter no 83 – JAMESON

The Brothers Hawthorne

Jameson was the first one out of the room, the first one through the halls, the first one to burst out the front door and look up. Rohan hadn’t been as wordy this time, so there wasn’t as much to parse for verbal clues, but what he had said indicated that the key would be hidden high.

I sincerely hope that none of you are afraid of heights.

Jameson couldn’t see all of Vantage this close up, so he turned and ran farther away for a better view. Dusk was approaching. Lights from the ground shone on the house.

The castle. From this view, he couldn’t think of it as anything else. He counted five turrets, but the highest point was around the back—a large, square tower that soared over the rest.

Jameson started running again—around the castle, to the back—and that was when he realized that Vantage hadn’t just gotten its name because it sat high above the sea. There were cliffs on this side, too.

The entire estate sat on top of a massive, steep, flat-topped hill nearly completely surrounded by ocean, a world unto itself. A single winding road had been cut into the cliffs on this side, but that was the only thing that connected Vantage to the isthmus back to the mainland.

Jameson walked to the cliff’s edge, Rohan’s words ringing in his mind. I sincerely hope that none of you are afraid of heights.

A sudden wind whipped Jameson back, strong and wild, seeming to come at him from three sides. He turned to look up at the castle, at the tower he’d seen from the other side. It sat nearer the cliff’s edge than the rest of the house and soared a story or two above it.

Ninety feet off the ground? More? Near the top of the tower, Jameson saw a large, white-faced clock.

“Clock tower,” he said out loud. Beneath the clock, a platform wrapped the building, its railing dark and ornate. And maybe five feet below that platform, Jameson could make out an opening cut into stone.

And through that opening, he could just almost see… something.

“Not something,” Jameson realized, his voice nearly lost to the brutal wind. “A bell.”

The clock tower was also a bell tower, and right before Rohan had made his comment about fear of heights, he’d informed them that the Game would begin anew with the striking of the bell.

Jameson didn’t just run this time. He flew. The door at the base of the tower was made of metal lattice, the kind one could easily imagine a knight shooting an arrow through. There didn’t seem to be a way of opening it from the outside, but before Jameson could formulate a plan to circle back and find an interior entrance to the tower, there was a sound halfway between thunder and the turning of gears, and the metal door began to rise.

Simon Johnstone-Jameson, Viscount Branford, stood on the other side.

His gaze locked on to Jameson’s.

Jameson wasn’t sure what to read into that gaze. “Why would you help me?”

In response, his uncle didn’t smile, didn’t even blink. “I told you before,” the red-haired man said. “I’m the head of this family in every way that matters. Ian might shirk his responsibilities, but I do not.”

That hadn’t mattered to Branford back at the Devil’s Mercy. It hadn’t mattered at the beginning of this Game. So why did it matter now?

“Does this have something to do with your secret?” Jameson asked. Your son.

Branford provided no response, and Jameson didn’t waste any more time waiting for answers that didn’t matter—at least, not now.

What are you without the Hawthorne name? Without the money. Without borrowing against someone else’s power. Without Avery Grambs by your side.

Jameson pushed past Branford. A twisting staircase was built into the side of the tower—no railing. Without a moment’s hesitation, Jameson tightened his hold on the chest and began to climb. Behind him, Branford

did the same. The staircase took a ninety-degree turn each time they hit one of the tower’s four walls. Up and up it went.

Up and up they went.

Finally, when they made it high enough to see the massive bell—ten feet tall, five across at its widest point—Jameson’s eyes caught on something else: a delicate bit of metal, gleaming in what little light came in from the outside.

The key.

Jameson climbed higher, faster, and when Branford took out his flashlight, Jameson realized that he’d been wrong. What he’d seen, it wasn’t the key. It was key, one of dozens suspending midair, hanging from long and nearly invisible strings. There were at least sixty or seventy keys total, scattered all around the bell, none of them touching, only a handful of them positioned so that Jameson could reach them from the stairs.

He knew that none of those keys was the one he was looking for. Rohan wouldn’t make it that easy. Jameson gauged the distance between the edge of the stone steps and the bell. Three and a half feet.

Branford placed a hand on Jameson’s shoulder, the way he had in the midst of Katharine’s taunting manipulation. But this time, the man’s hand wasn’t meant to be comforting.

It was meant to hold him back.

“Don’t,” his uncle warned, in a tone that reminded Jameson of Grayson

—and also Nash, when Nash thought one of them was on the verge of doing something unwise.

Jameson turned his head and met the man’s eyes. “I appreciate the advice.”

“That wasn’t advice,” Branford told him.

The sound of creaking wood was the only warning the two of them got before a trap door swung down from the ceiling above the bell. There was a flash of blue, and an instant later, Zella landed on top of the bell.

Jameson eyed the space between the staircase and the bell again. I can make it. The seventy-foot drop barely registered, but even he wasn’t reckless enough to attempt the jump holding a solid silver chest.

“Jameson.” Branford practically growled his name. In response, Jameson took a calculated risk.

“Hold this for me.” He thrust the chest at Branford, and the second the

man had a hold on it, Jameson leapt.

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