Chapter no 14

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games, 3)

Back in the library, Nash examined the envelope, the message, and the disk.

“The Rooneys don’t have Toby,” I announced. “They’re ruthless, and if they knew for sure Toby was alive, they would probably be making a real effort to feed his face to a pack of dogs, but I’m almost certain they don’t have him.”

Xander raised his right hand. “I have a question about faces and dogs.”

I shuddered. “You don’t want to know.”

Grayson took up a perch on the edge of the tree-trunk desk, unbuttoning his suit jacket. “I can likewise clear the Graysons.”

Eve gave him a look. “The Graysons?”

“My sire and his family,” Grayson clarified, his face like stone. “They’re related to Colin Anders Wright, who died in the fire. Sheffield Grayson abandoned his wife and daughters some months back.”

That was a lie. Sheffield Grayson was dead. Eve’s half sister had killed him to save me, and Oren had covered it up. But Eve gave no sign that she knew that, and based on what she’d told us about her siblings, that tracked.

“Rumors place my so-called father somewhere in the Caymans,” Grayson continued smoothly. “I’ve been keeping an eye on the rest of the family in his absence.”

“Does the Grayson family know about you?” Jameson asked his brother. No banter, no sarcasm. He knew what family meant to Grayson.

“I saw no need for them to,” came the reply. “But I can

assure you that if Sheffield Grayson’s wife, sister, or daughters had a hand in this, I would know.”

“You hired someone.” Jameson’s eyes narrowed. “With what money?”

“Invest. Cultivate. Create.” Grayson didn’t offer any more explanation than that before he stood. “If we’ve ruled out the families of Colin Anders Wright and Kaylie Rooney, that leaves only the family of the third victim: David Golding.”

“I’ll have someone look into it.” Oren didn’t even step out of the shadows to speak.

“Seems like you do that a lot.” Eve leveled a gaze in his direction.

“Heiress.” Jameson suddenly stopped pacing. He picked up the envelope the message had come in. “This was addressed to you.”

I heard what he was saying, the possibility he’d seen. “What if Toby isn’t the target of revenge?” I said slowly. “What if I am?”

“You have a lot of enemies?” Eve asked me.

“In her position,” Grayson murmured, “it’s hard not to.” “What if we’re looking at this wrong?” When Xander

paced, it wasn’t in straight lines or in circles. “What if it’s not about the message? What if we should be focusing on the code?”

“The game,” Jameson translated. “We all recognized that word trick.”

“Sure did.” Nash hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his worn jeans. “We’re looking for someone who knows how the old man played.”

“What do you mean how the old man played?” Eve asked.

Grayson answered and kept it brief. “Our grandfather liked puzzles, riddles, codes.”

For years, Tobias Hawthorne had laid out a challenge for his grandsons every Saturday morning—a game to play, a

multi-step puzzle to be solved.

“He liked testing us,” Nash drawled. “Making the rules.

Watching us dance.”

“Nash has granddaddy issues,” Xander confided to Eve. “It’s a tragic yet engrossing tale of—”

“You don’t want to be finishing that sentence, little brother.” There wasn’t anything explicitly dangerous or threatening in Nash’s tone, but Xander was no dummy.

“Sure don’t!” he agreed.

My thoughts raced. “If we’re looking for someone who knows Tobias Hawthorne’s games, someone dangerous and bitter with a grudge against me…”

“Skye.” Jameson and Grayson said their mother’s name at once. Trying to kill me hadn’t worked out too well for her. But given that Sheffield Grayson had framed her for a murder attempt she hadn’t committed, not trying to kill me hadn’t worked out too well for Skye Hawthorne, either.

What if this was her next play?

“We need to confront her,” Jameson said immediately. “Talk to her—in person.”

“I’m going to have to veto that idea.” Nash strolled toward Jameson, his pace unhurried.

“How does that classic proverb go?” Jameson mused. “You’re not the boss of me? It’s something like that. No, wait, I remember! It’s You’re not the boss of me, wanker.”

“Excellent use of British slang,” Xander commented. Jameson shrugged. “I’m a man of the world now.”

“Jamie’s right.” Grayson managed to say that without grimacing. “The only way we’ll get anything out of Skye is face-to-face.”

No one could hurt Grayson, hurt any of them, like Skye could. “Even if she is behind this,” I said, “she’ll deny everything.”

That was what Skye did. In her mind, she was always the victim, and when it came to her sons, she knew just how to twist the knife.

“What if you show her the disk?” Eve suggested quietly. “If she recognizes it, maybe you can use it to get her talking.”

“If Skye had any idea what that disk was worth,” I replied, “she definitely wouldn’t have sent it to me.” Skye Hawthorne had been almost entirely disinherited. No way was she parting with anything valuable.

“So if she makes a play for the disk,” Grayson stated archly, “we’ll know that she’s aware of its value, and ergo, not behind the abduction.”

I stared Grayson down. “I’m not letting any of you do this without me.”

“Avery.” Oren stepped out of the shadows and gave me a look that was part paternal, part military commander. “I strongly advise against any kind of confrontation with Skye Hawthorne.”

“I’ve found duct tape more effective than advice, myself,” Nash told Oren conversationally.

“It’s settled, then!” Xander said brightly. “Family reunion, Hawthorne style!”

“Uh, Xander?” Max appeared in the doorway, looking rumpled. She held up a phone. “You left this on your nightstand.”

Nightstand? I shot Max a look. I’d known that she and Xander were friends, but that was not a friendly kind of rumple. “Rebecca texted,” Max told Xander, conspicuously ignoring my look. “She’s on her way here.”

I was distracted enough by the idea of Max and Xander spending the night together that it took a moment for the rest to penetrate. Rebecca. Seeing Eve would destroy Emily’s sister.

“New plan,” Xander announced. “I’m skipping family reunion. The rest of you can report back.”

Eve frowned. “Who’s Rebecca?”

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