Chapter no 15

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games, 3)

Oren drove, and Nash sat shotgun. Two additional bodyguards piled into the back of the SUV, which left me in the middle row with Jameson on one side and Grayson on the other.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on a flight back to Harvard right about now?” Jameson leaned forward, past me, to shoot his brother a look.

Grayson arched an eyebrow. “Your point?”

“Tell me I’m wrong,” Jameson said. “Tell me that you’re not staying because of Eve.”

“There’s a threat,” Grayson snapped. “Someone moved against our family. Of course I’m staying.”

Jameson reached around me to grab Grayson by his suit. “She’s not Emily.”

Grayson didn’t flinch. He didn’t fight back. “I know that.” “Gray.”

“I know that!” The second time, Grayson’s words came out louder, more desperate.

Jameson let go of him.

“Despite what you seem to believe,” Grayson bit out, “what you both seem to believe, I can take care of myself.” Grayson was the Hawthorne who had been raised to lead. The one who was never allowed to need anything or anyone. “And you’re right, Jamie—she’s not Emily. Eve is vulnerable in ways that Emily never was.”

The muscles in my chest tightened.

“That must have been a really illuminating game of Chutes and Ladders,” Jameson said.

Grayson looked out the window, away from both of us. “I couldn’t sleep last night. Neither could Eve.” His voice was controlled, his body still. “I found her wandering the halls.” I thought about Grayson kissing a girl at Harvard.

Grayson seeing a ghost.

“I asked her if the bruise on her temple was paining her,” Grayson continued, the muscles in his jaw visible and hard. “And she told me that some boys would want her to say yes. That some people want to think that girls like her are weak.” He went silent for a second or two. “But Eve isn’t weak. She hasn’t lied to us. She hasn’t asked for a damn thing except help finding the one person in this world who sees her for who she is.”

I thought of Eve talking about how hard she’d tried as a child to be perfect. And then I thought about Grayson. About the impossible standards he held himself to.

“Maybe I’m not the one who needs a reminder that this girl is her own person,” Grayson said, his voice taking on a knifelike edge. “But go ahead, Jamie, tell me I’m compromised, tell me that my judgment can’t be trusted, that I’m so easily manipulated and fragile.”

“Don’t,” Nash warned Jameson from the front seat.

“I’ll be happy to discuss all of your personal shortcomings,” Jameson told Grayson. “Alphabetically and in great detail. Let’s just get through this first.”



This took us to a neighborhood full of McMansions. Once, the sheer size of the lots and the houses that sat on them would have astounded me, but compared to Hawthorne House, these enormous homes seemed absolutely ordinary.

Oren parked on the street, and as he began rattling off our security protocol, all I could think was How did Skye Hawthorne end up here?

I hadn’t kept track of what happened to her after the DA had dropped the murder and attempted murder charges,

but on some level, I had expected to find her in either dire straits or the utter lap of luxury—not suburbia.

We rang the doorbell, and Skye answered the door wearing a loose aquamarine dress and sunglasses. “Well, this is a surprise.” She looked at the boys over her sunglasses. “Then again, I drew a change card this morning. The Wheel of Fortune, followed by the Eight of Cups, inverted.” She sighed. “And my horoscope did say something about forgiveness.”

The muscles in Grayson’s jaw tensed. “We’re not here to forgive you.”

“Forgive me? Gray, darling, why would I need anyone’s forgiveness?” This, from the woman whose charges had been dropped only because they had arrested her for the wrong attempt on my life. “After all,” Skye continued, retreating into the house and graciously allowing us to follow, “I didn’t throw you out onto the streets, now did I?”

Grayson had forced Skye to leave Hawthorne House—for me. “I made sure you had a place to go,” he said stiffly.

“I didn’t let you rot away in prison,” Skye continued dramatically. “I didn’t force you to grovel to friends for decent legal counsel. Really! Don’t you boys talk to me about forgiveness. I’m not the one who abandoned you.”

Nash raised an eyebrow. “Debatable, don’t you think?”

“Nash.” Skye made a tsking sound. “Aren’t you a bit old to be holding on to childish grudges? You of all people should understand: I wasn’t made to be stationary. A woman like me can absolutely die of inertness. Is it really so hard to understand that your mother is also a person?”

She could shred them without even trying. Even Nash, who’d had years to get over Skye’s lack of motherly impulses, wasn’t immune.

“You’re wearing a ring.” Jameson cut in with a shrewd observation.

Skye offered him a coy smile. “This little thing?” she said, brandishing what had to be a three-carat diamond on

her left ring finger. “I would have invited you boys to the wedding, but it was a small courthouse affair. You know how I detest spectacle, and given how Archie and I met, a courthouse wedding seemed appropriate.”

Skye Hawthorne lived for spectacle.

“‘A courthouse wedding seemed appropriate’,” Grayson repeated, digesting her meaning and narrowing his eyes. “You married your defense attorney?”

Skye gave an elegant little shrug. “Archie’s children and grandchildren are always after him to retire, but my darling husband will be practicing criminal defense until he dies of old age.” In other words: Yes, she’d married her lawyer, and yes, he was significantly older than she was— and quite possibly not long for this world. “Now, if you’re not here to beg for my forgiveness…” Skye eyed each of her three sons in turn. “Then why are you here?”

“A package was delivered to Hawthorne House today,” Jameson said.

Skye poured herself a glass of sparkling wine. “Oh?”

Jameson withdrew the disk from his pocket. “You wouldn’t happen to know what this is, would you?”

For a split second, Skye Hawthorne froze. Her pupils dilated. “Where did you get that?” she asked, moving to take it from him, but like a magician, Jameson made the “coin” disappear.

Skye recognized it. I could see the hunger in her eyes. “Tell us what that is,” Grayson ordered.

Skye looked at him. “Always so serious,” she murmured, reaching out to touch his cheek. “And the shadows in those eyes…”

“Skye.” Jameson drew her attention away from Grayson.


“Manners, Jamie? From you?” Skye dropped her hand. “Color me shocked, but even so, there’s not much I can tell you. I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

I listened closely to her words. She’d never seen it. “But

you know what it is,” I said.

For a moment, Skye let her eyes meet mine, like we were two players shaking hands before a match.

“Sure would be a shame if someone got to your husband,” Nash piped up. “Warned him about a few things.”

“Archie won’t believe a word you say,” Skye responded. “He’s already defended me against bogus charges once.”

“I’d wager I know a thing or two he’d find interesting.” Nash leaned back against a wall, waiting.

Skye looked back to Grayson. Of all of them, she still had the tightest hold on him. “I don’t know much,” she hedged. “I know that coin belonged to my father. I know that the great Tobias Hawthorne cross-examined me for hours when it went missing, describing it again and again. But I wasn’t the one who took it.”

“Toby was.” I said what we were all thinking.

“My little Toby was so angry that summer.” Skye’s eyes closed, and for a moment, she didn’t seem dangerous or manipulative or even coy. “I never really knew why.”

The adoption. The secrecy. The lies.

“Ultimately, my darling little brother ran off and took that as a parting gift. Based on our father’s reaction, Toby chose his revenge very well. To get that kind of response out of someone with my father’s means?” Skye opened her eyes again. “It must be very precious.”

Go to Jackson. Toby’s instructions to my mother echoed in my mind. You know what I left there. You know what it’s worth.

“You don’t have Toby.” Jameson cut to the chase. “Do you?”

“Are you admitting,” Skye said cannily, “that my brother is alive?”

Anything we told her, she might well sell to the press. “Answer the question,” Grayson ordered.

“I don’t really have any of you anymore, now do I? Not

Toby. Not you boys.” Skye looked almost mournful, but the glint in her eyes was a little too sharp. “Really, what exactly are you accusing me of, Grayson?” Skye took a drink. “You act like I’m such a monster.” Her voice was still high and clear, but intense. For the first time, I could see a resemblance between her and her sons—but especially Jameson. “All of you do, but the only thing that I have ever wanted was to be loved.”

I had the sudden sense that this was Skye’s truth, as she saw it.

“But the more I needed love, the more I craved it, the more indifferent the world became. My parents. Your fathers. Even you boys.” Skye had told Jameson and me once that she left men after she got pregnant as a test: If they really wanted her, they would follow.

But no one ever had.

“We loved you,” Nash said in a way that made me think of the little boy he must have been. “You were our mother. How could we not?”

“That’s what I told myself, each time I got pregnant.” Skye’s eyes glistened. “But none of you stayed mine for long. No matter what I did, you were your grandfather’s first and mine second.” Skye helped herself to another sip, her voice becoming more cavalier. “Daddy never really considered me a player in the grand game, so I did what I could. I gave him heirs.” She turned her gaze on me. “And look how that turned out.” She gave a little shrug. “So I’m done.”

“You really expect us to believe that you’re just throwing in the towel?” Jameson asked.

“Darling, I don’t particularly care what you believe. But I’d rather rule my own kingdom than settle for scraps of hers.”

“So you’re just stepping back from it all?” I stared at Skye Hawthorne, trying to divine some truth. “Hawthorne House? The money? Your father’s legacy?”

“Do you know what the real difference is between millions and billions, Ava?” Skye asked. “Because at a certain point, it’s not about the money.”

“It’s about the power,” Grayson said beside me.

Skye raised her glass to him. “You really would have made a wonderful heir.”

“So that’s it?” Nash asked, looking around the massive foyer. “This is your kingdom now?”

“Why not?” Skye replied airily. “Daddy never saw me as a power player anyway.” She gave another elegant little shrug. “Who am I to disappoint?”

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