Chapter no 91 – GRAYSON

The Brothers Hawthorne

That night, Grayson went swimming—not to forget this time, but to stall. It didn’t work. He felt Avery’s presence the moment she stepped onto the patio. He took one more lap, then pulled himself out of the pool.

Avery eyed the drawing on his torso. “I’m not going to ask.” Grayson bared his teeth. “Please don’t.”

“Jameson told me about your sisters.” Avery gave him a look, one of those very Avery expressions that was worth a thousand words. In this case, her eyes said, I’m sorry you’re in pain. The set of her mouth said, You should have called me. The delicate line of her jaw said, You continue to be one of the most infuriating men on the planet.

Grayson couldn’t argue any of those points, so he rebutted her verbal statement instead. “I didn’t tell Jameson that much.”

“You told him enough,” Avery shot back. “If I could go back in time to when your father kidnapped me, when Mellie shot him—I’d call the police.”

Regret. Grayson recognized the depth of emotion in her tone all too well.

“Toby and Oren took care of it,” Avery said. “But I shouldn’t have let them. Calling the police would have led to a media circus, but we would have survived.”

Grayson brought his eyes to hers and didn’t speak until he was certain that she wouldn’t look away again. “We do that,” he told her quietly. “Survive.”

Avery smiled, a barely there hint of a smile, and Grayson realized

suddenly that for the first time since he’d met Avery Grambs, there was nothing tense or painful about standing this close to her.

She’d told him once that they were family. Maybe a part of him had been running from that, too.

“What do your sisters think happened to their father?” Avery always had a way of cutting straight to the questions that mattered most.

“I don’t know for sure what they believe,” Grayson told her. “Popular consensus is that he skipped town. I think they think that he’s capable of that now. They know he’s under FBI investigation.”

“So maybe he did skip town,” Avery told Grayson. “But maybe he hired someone to go after me on his way. You don’t have to tell your sisters everything, but you could tell them he was behind the bombing, tell them that you were protecting them from the truth and protecting me from having to relive the worst time of my life.”

This is Avery, protecting me. “As a general rule,” Grayson told her, “voluntarily opening a can of worms rarely goes well.”

“As a general rule, Gray, when people get close to you, you bolt.”

No one except his brothers was allowed to talk to him like that. No one except her.

“Toby called me,” Avery continued after a moment. “He was under the impression that Eve called you.”

What seemed on the surface like a subject change probably wasn’t, coming from her.

“You don’t need to worry about Eve calling me.” Grayson clipped his words. “You don’t need to worry about Eve and me, period.”

“Toby said that Vincent Blake survived his double bypass.” Avery’s own tone was measured. “He’s expected to make a full recovery.” She took a step toward him, just as measured as her words. “Toby asked me to tell you that Eve has been surveilling your sisters.”

“I am aware.” Grayson gave her a quelling look meant to end this conversation, but she was Avery Grambs, and he was Grayson Hawthorne, and she’d never once been quelled by anything he’d thrown at her.

“Eve sent someone to watch your sisters,” Avery reiterated, “but that’s all she did, Grayson—surveillance, nothing else. Eve hasn’t made a move against your family. Toby’s sure of it.”

Grayson had been raised a skeptic, but Avery, he bone-deep believed.

“Toby’s sure of it,” he echoed. “And you’re sure of him.”

“He called me horrible girl.” Avery smiled wistfully. “He’s telling the truth.”

“You are pretty horrible,” Grayson agreed, his tone deadpan, a ghost of a smile pulling at his lips. His mind began sifting through the implications of Toby’s claim, disassembling a puzzle Grayson had thought was solved, piecing the elements back together a different way.

“What are you thinking?” Avery prodded.

Grayson removed his phone from his pocket to call his brothers. “I’m thinking that if Toby’s right, if the FBI’s sudden burst of interest in the Sheffield Grayson case really wasn’t Eve’s doing—I need to get back to Phoenix.”

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