Chapter no 12

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games, 3)

That night, the only thing that kept me from nightmares was Jameson’s body next to mine. I dreamed about my mom, about Toby, about fire and gold. I woke to the sound of shouting.

“I’m going to throttle him!” There was a grand total of one person who could get a rise out of my sister.

As Jameson began to stir, I slipped out of bed and padded out of my room to the hall. “Another cowboy hat?” I guessed. For the past two months, Nash had been buying cowboy hats for Libby. A veritable rainbow of colors and styles. He liked to leave them where my sister would find them.

“Look at this!” Libby demanded. She held up a cowboy hat. It was black with a bejeweled skull and crossbones in the center and metal spikes down the side.

“It’s very you,” I told her.

“It’s perfect!” Libby said, outraged.

“Face it, Lib,” I told her. “You’re a couple.”

“We’re not a couple,” Libby insisted. “This isn’t my life, Ave. It’s yours.” She looked down, her hair, dyed black with rainbow tips, falling into her face. “And experience has taught me that I am utterly deficient when it comes to love. So.” Libby thrust the cowboy hat at me. “I am not in love with Nash Hawthorne. We are not a couple. We are not dating. And he is definitely not in love with me.”

“Avery.” Oren announced his presence. I turned to face him, and my pulse jumped.

“What is it?” I asked. “Toby?”

“This arrived by courier in the dead of night.” Oren held out an envelope with my name written across the front in elegant script. “I screened it—no trace of poison, explosives, or recording devices.”

“Is it a ransom demand?” I asked. If it was a ransom demand, I could call Alisa, have her pay it.

Not waiting for a reply, I took the envelope from Oren. It was too heavy to just be a letter. My senses heightened, the world around me falling into slow motion, I opened it.

Inside, I found a single sheet of paper—and a familiar golden disk.

What the hell? I looked up. “Jameson!” He was already on his way to me. We were wrong. The words died, trapped in my throat. The person who kidnapped Toby wasn’t after the disk.

I stared at it, my mind racing.

“Why would Toby’s abductor send that to you?” Jameson asked. “Proof of life?”

“Proof that they have him.” I didn’t want to be making the correction, but this wasn’t proof of life. “And the fact that they sent it,” I continued, steeling myself, “means that either the person who took Toby doesn’t know what the disk is worth…”

“Or they don’t care.” Jameson laid a hand on my shoulder.

Toby’s okay. He has to be. He has to. The disk burning my palm like a brand, I closed my fist around it and made myself read the accompanying message. The paper was linen, expensive. Letters had been scripted onto it in a deep blood red.




“That’s it?” Jameson said. “There was nothing else?”

I checked the envelope again. “Nothing.” I brought my fingertip to the writing—and the red ink. My stomach twisted. “That is ink, isn’t it?”

Blood red.

“I don’t know,” Jameson replied intensely, “but I do know what it says.”

I stared at the letters scattered across the page.




“It’s a simple trick,” Jameson told me. “One of my grandfather’s favorites. You decode the message by inserting the same sequence of letters into every blank. Five letters, in this case.”

My heart brutalizing the inside of my rib cage, I tried to focus. What five letters could go after or RE and before ANCE?

After a few seconds, I saw it. Slowly, painstakingly, my brain ticked off the answer, letter by letter. “VEN.” I took a sharp breath. “GE.”

Venge. Completed, the message was anything but comforting. “Avenge,” I made myself say out loud. “Revenge. Vengeance.” Decoded, the last line seemed more like a signature.

My eyes flashed to Jameson’s, and he said it for me. “Avengers

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