Chapter no 16

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games, 3)

The walk down the lengthy driveway was tense.

“Well, I for one found that refreshing,” Jameson declared. “Our mother isn’t the villain this time.” He could act like he was bulletproof, like Skye’s callousness couldn’t touch him, but I knew better. “My favorite part, personally,” he continued grandly, “was being blamed for never loving her enough, though I must say the reminder that we were conceived in a vain attempt to get a lock on those sweet, sweet Hawthorne billions never goes astray.”

“Shut up.” Grayson removed his suit jacket and hung a sharp right.

“Where are you going?” I called after him. Grayson turned back. “I’d prefer to walk.” “Eighteen miles?” Nash drawled.

“I will assure you—all of you—once again…” Grayson rolled up his shirtsleeves, the motion practiced, emphatic. “I can take care of myself.”

“Say that again,” Jameson encouraged, “but try to sound even more like an automaton this time.”

I gave Jameson a look. Grayson was hurting. They both were.

“You’re right, Heiress,” Jameson said, holding up his hands in defeat. “I’m being horribly unfair to automatons.”

“You’re spoiling for a fight,” Grayson commented, his voice dangerously neutral.

Jameson took a step toward his brother. “An eighteen- mile walk would do.”

For several seconds, the two of them engaged in a silent

staring contest. Finally, Grayson inclined his head. “Don’t expect me to talk to you.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Jameson replied.

“You’re both being ridiculous,” I said. “The two of you can’t walk back to Hawthorne House.” I really should have known better by now than to tell a Hawthorne he couldn’t do something.

I turned to Nash. “Aren’t you going to say anything?” I asked him.

In response, Nash opened the back door of the SUV for me. “I call shotgun.”



Alone in the middle row, I spent the drive back to Hawthorne House in silence. Skye had definitely gotten to her sons. Grayson would turn that inward. Jameson would act out. I could only hope they both made it home unscathed. Aching for them, I wondered who had made Skye so desperate to be the center of someone’s world that she couldn’t even love her own children, for fear they wouldn’t love her back enough.

On some level, I knew the answer. Daddy never really considered me a player in the grand game. I thought back further, to a poem that Toby had written in code. The tree is poison, don’t you see? It poisoned S and Z and me.

“Skye loved being pregnant.” Nash broke the silence in the SUV, glancing back at me from the front seat. “I ever tell you that?”

I shook my head.

“The old man doted on her. She stayed at Hawthorne House for the entirety of each pregnancy, nested even. And when she had a new baby, it was like magic, those first few days. I remember standing in the doorway, watching her feeding Gray right after they got home from the hospital. All she did was stare at him, softly crooning. Baby Gray was a real quiet little guy, solemn. Jamie was a screamer.

Xander wiggled.” Nash shook his head. “And every time, those first few days, I thought, Maybe she’ll stay.

I swallowed. “But she never did.”

“The way Skye tells it, the old man stole us away. Truth is, she’s the one who put my brothers in his arms. She gave them to him. Problem was never that she didn’t love us— she just wanted the rest of it more.”

Her father’s approval. The Hawthorne fortune. I wondered how many babies Nash had seen his mother give away before he’d decided he didn’t want a part of any of it.

“If you had a baby…,” I said.

“When I have a baby,” came the deep, heart-shattering reply, “she’ll be my whole world.”

“She?” I repeated.

Nash settled back into his seat. “I can picture Lib with a little girl.”

Before I could respond to that, Oren got a call. “What have you got?” he asked the moment he answered. “Where?” Oren brought the SUV to a stop outside the gates. “There’s been a breach,” he told the rest of us. “A sensor was tripped in the tunnels.”

Adrenaline flooded my bloodstream. I reached for the knife in my boot—not to draw it, just to remind myself: I wasn’t defenseless. Eventually, my brain calmed enough for me to remember the circumstances in which we’d left Hawthorne House.

“I want teams coming in from both sides,” Oren was saying.

“Stop.” I cut him off. “It’s not a security breach.” I took a deep breath. “It’s Rebecca.”

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