Chapter no 87 – GRAYSON

The Brothers Hawthorne

Jameson found Katharine and Rohan outside, near the cliffs. The older woman’s hand was extended, the silver ballerina lying flat on her palm.

“Give me the mark.” Katharine’s words were nearly lost in the wind, but a moment later, the wind stopped suddenly and completely.

“I’m afraid that’s not how this works.” Rohan’s white dress shirt was untucked and unbuttoned nearly halfway down. Something about the way he was standing reminded Jameson of the chameleon he’d met outside the club—and the fighter he’d met in the ring.

“You said that whoever brought you what was in the final box would win the game and receive the mark.” Katharine straightened.

“Technically,” Jameson put in, strolling toward the two of them, a rakish smile on his face, “that isn’t what he said. I believe the exact words were: Two boxes with secrets. In the third, you’ll find something much more valuable. Tell me what you find in the third box, and you’ll win the mark.

Rohan hadn’t said that the winner would be the one who brought him the object in the box. He’d said that it would be the person who told him what was in the box—and whatever that thing was, it had to be more valuable than even the most dangerous secrets.

“Fine, then,” Katharine said briskly. “A ballerina. A figurine. A piece of silver. That’s what was in the box.”

“Wrong answer,” Rohan told her. Slowly, he turned toward Jameson. The last time they’d faced each other this directly, Rohan had just told him to stay down.

Jameson thought the Factotum knew him a little better now.

“Have a different answer for me, Hawthorne?” Rohan asked.

“As a matter of fact,” Jameson replied. “I do.” He held Rohan’s gaze, his own blazing, adrenaline coursing through his veins. “Silence.”

Jameson let the answer hang in the air, just for a moment.

“More valuable than secrets,” he continued. The ability to say nothing, to keep those secrets. Silence. “And this”—Jameson nodded toward the silver chest—“isn’t just a box. It’s a music box. The music plays, the ballerina turns. Except this time, no music. Silence.”

Rohan’s lips slowly curled into a closed-mouthed smile. “It looks like we have a winner.”

Euphoria exploded in Jameson like a speeding train crashing through wall after wall after wall. The world grew brighter, his hearing more acute, and he felt everything—every bruise, every wound, the rush of adrenaline, the taste of the seaside air, the breath in his lungs, the blood in his veins— all of it.

This was more.

“And so,” the Factotum continued, “this year’s Game is concluded.” With a flourish, Rohan produced the stone mark: half black, half white, entirely smooth. He held it out to Jameson, who took it. The stone felt cool in his palm, like a disk made entirely of ice.

I did it.

“You may have a day,” Rohan told him, “to decide what you wish to trade that in for.”

All Jameson could think was that this was what he was—without the Hawthorne name, without the old man, without Avery, even. Jameson had played this his way, and he’d won.

He could feel Katharine’s eyes on his face, assessing him, determining her next move. You don’t have be to a player to win the game. All one really has to do to win is control the players. She was going to offer him something—or threaten him. Maybe both. She’d already tried to use Ian against him, and who knew where Ian was—or what he was doing—now.

Jameson wasn’t about to give Katharine another twenty-four hours to determine her—and his mysterious uncle Bowen’s—next move. “I don’t need a day,” he told Rohan.

The Proprietor of the Devil’s Mercy kept control of its membership through use of a ledger that held their secrets. Powerful secrets of powerful

men—and some women, though not many.

Jameson looked to Zella. Her lips ticked very slightly upward on the ends. Whatever she’d wanted from Katharine—or Bowen Johnstone-Jameson—she’d presumably secured it. She’d fulfilled her end of whatever deal she’d struck with them by handing over the last key. And now, the duchess owed Jameson a debt, one she seemed to think she’d soon be in excellent position to repay.

Jameson looked to Branford next: uncle, head of a family that wasn’t Jameson’s in any way but blood. And yet… Jameson had to put real effort into looking away from the man, and when he did, it was to look up at Vantage. He thought of the portrait of his paternal grandmother. This was her ancestral home, and through her blood, his.

Jameson held the mark back out to Rohan. “I like this place,” he told him. “Though I might get rid of that damn bell.”

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