Chapter no 94 – GRAYSON

The Brothers Hawthorne

Every problem had solutions, plural. Complex problems were fluid, dynamic. But as it turned out, Kent Trowbridge wasn’t all that complex, and Grayson was certain that he wouldn’t be a problem for long.

Two days. That was how long it took for Grayson and his brothers to get what they needed, which gave Grayson plenty of time to consider the where and when of this confrontation.

Racquetball wasn’t one of Grayson’s sports of choice, but the racquetball court that Trowbridge had reserved for his weekly game against a family friend suited Grayson’s purposes nicely—particularly given that the friend in question was a federal judge.

The same judge who’d signed the FBI warrant.

The clear glass wall separating the hall from court number seven allowed Grayson the perfect view of his quarry. Even better, it allowed his quarry to eventually realize that he was being watched.

Grayson had dressed for the occasion: expensive suit, expensive shoes, a black-and-gold Rolex on his wrist. He didn’t look like he belonged in an athletic facility. There was an advantage to making sure your opponent felt underdressed.

The judge noticed him first. Grayson didn’t bat an eye. He just kept watching the two of them, the way a man on the floor of the stock exchange might watch the boards.

It took all of a minute for the game to come to a pause. The judge pushed open the glass door, annoyed. “Can we help you?”

“I can wait.” Grayson put very little inflection in those words. “I’d hate

to interrupt your match.”

Trowbridge made his way out into the hall, his racket dangling from one hand. He scowled. “Mr. Hawthorne.”

Grayson had the general sense that Trowbridge was using mister the way a high school principal might. It wasn’t a sign of respect, that was for sure—but either way, the form of address he’d chosen backfired.

“Hawthorne?” the judge asked.

Grayson offered the man the most perfunctory of smiles. “Guilty as charged.” He turned the full force of his gaze and attention to the judge. “You recently signed a federal warrant for my younger sisters’ home.” Grayson’s tone was conversational, because he’d learned from the master that the most powerful people in the world never needed to do more than converse. “What a coincidence that the two of you know each other.”

Trowbridge, Grayson saw with no small amount of satisfaction, was getting irritated. “Whatever you think you’re doing here, young man, Acacia won’t thank you for it.”

That was doubtlessly true. “She probably won’t thank the forensic accountants I hired, either.”

A vein pulsed near Trowbridge’s temple, but he made a valiant attempt at holding on to his calm. He turned to his racquetball partner. “Same time next week?”

The judge looked long and hard at Grayson, then glanced back at Trowbridge. “I’ll let you know.”

Soon enough, Grayson and his prey were alone. Right on cue, Trowbridge’s phone buzzed.

Grayson smiled. “I’m sure that’s not anything too critical.”

Trowbridge visibly resisted the urge to answer his phone. “What can I do for you, Grayson?”

First name now. Interesting choice. “Once you’ve been disbarred,” Grayson replied, gloves off, “not much.”

“I’ve had enough of this,” Trowbridge told him. “They never even should have let you past the front desk.”

Grayson stared at the man for a moment, watching that vein throb, and then he said a string of numbers, one after another, evenly paced, no particular emphasis on any one digit. “That’s the account that the money from Acacia’s trust was transferred into. The records of the receiving bank

in Singapore are, of course, nearly impossible to access.” Grayson gave the slightest of shrugs. “Nearly.”

Trowbridge was really sweating now, but when men like Trowbridge felt threatened, they blustered. “Are you suggesting you know where your father is?”

In response, Grayson recited another number. “That’s the combination to your safe,” he clarified helpfully.

How dare you

“My brothers and I are fond of dares,” Grayson replied. “And foreign banks like the one you used—they’re awfully fond of billionaires.”

“You aren’t a billionaire,” Trowbridge spat. “You have nothing.”

“A Hawthorne,” Grayson replied coolly, “never has nothing.” He paused, the silence a knife to be wielded just so. “You’re thinking about everything you keep in that safe.”

“I’ll have you arrested.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Grayson told the man. “I’m sure that once the FBI realizes—if they haven’t already—that the entirety of Acacia Grayson’s inheritance has been restored to her trust, they won’t stop until they track down the party responsible.” Grayson held Trowbridge’s gaze in a way designed to hold him in place. “They’ll think it’s her husband at first, I’m sure…”

Trowbridge narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you mean your father?”

It was almost amusing, the way this man thought there were points to be won in this little back and forth. The way he didn’t realize—refused to realize—that he was done.

“My father,” Grayson agreed amiably. “I can’t say I have any affection for the man. But at least he—or whoever took Acacia’s money—had a sudden burst of conscience.” Grayson leaned forward, just slightly. “I hope for that person’s sake,” he said softly, “that they weren’t sloppy.”

There was an art to saying things without saying them. Things like I know you took the money. And the FBI will know that soon, too.

“You’re done,” Trowbridge blustered. “If you think your name will protect you…”

“I don’t need protection,” Grayson said simply. “It wasn’t my safe.

Those weren’t my accounts.” Trowbridge’s phone buzzed again.

Grayson continued blithely, “I certainly didn’t send those emails.”

There it was—the bob of his opponent’s Adam’s apple. “What emails?” Trowbridge demanded.

Grayson didn’t reply. He glanced pointedly at court number seven. “You’ll have to let me know if the judge still wants to play next week.”

Within the week, said the promise beneath that seemingly innocuous sentence, no one will be willing to risk a connection with you.

Grayson turned to leave.

“He didn’t deserve her!” Trowbridge wasn’t yelling so much as vibrating with fury. “She should have listened to me.”

“On the day of her mother’s funeral?” Grayson didn’t even bother turning back to face the man. “Or years earlier when she said that the two of you would be better as friends? Or maybe more recently, when you set Savannah up to think that in seven short months, she would be in a position to solve her family’s problems?”

Protect them.

“Acacia was never going to let Savannah do that,” Trowbridge snapped.

Grayson still refused to turn around. “Acacia would say yes to you first,” he said quietly. “That was the plan, was it not?”

Trowbridge was incensed now, bordering on apoplectic. “You arrogant, spoiled, cocksure—”

“Brother,” Grayson finished. “The word you’re looking for is brother.” Now, he looked back. “No one hurts my family.”

Whatever Gigi and Savannah thought of him now, he would protect them.

Trowbridge’s phone buzzed again. He looked down at it this time and paled at the number that flashed across his screen.

“I’ll let you get that,” Grayson said with one last, well-targeted smile. “Something tells me that it just might be critical after all.”

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