Chapter no 17

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games, 3)

The tunnels that ran beneath the Hawthorne estate had fewer entrances than the secret passageways. Years ago, Tobias Hawthorne had shown those entrances to a young Rebecca Laughlin. The old man had seen a girl living in the shadows of her sick older sister. He’d told Rebecca that she deserved something of her own.

I found her in the tunnel beneath the tennis courts. Guided only by the light on my phone, I made my way toward the place where she stood. The tunnel dead-ended into a concrete wall. Rebecca stood facing it, her red hair wild, her lithe body held stiff.

“Go away, Xander,” she said.

I stopped a few feet shy of her. “It’s me.”

I heard Rebecca take in a shaky breath. “Go away, Avery.”


Rebecca was good at wielding silence as a weapon—or a shield. After Emily’s death, she’d isolated herself, wrapped in that silence.

“I have all day,” I said.

Rebecca finally turned to look at me. For a beautiful girl, she cried ugly. “I met Eve. We told her the truth about Toby’s adoption.” She sucked in a gulp of air. “She wants to meet my mom.”

Of course she did. Rebecca’s mother was Eve’s grandmother. “Can your mom handle that?” I asked.

I’d only met Mallory Laughlin a few times, but stable

wasn’t a word I would have used to describe her. As a

teenager, she’d given baby Toby up for adoption, unaware that the Hawthornes were the ones who had adopted him. Her baby had been so close, for years, and she hadn’t known—not back then. When she’d finally had another child two decades later, Emily had been born with a heart condition.

And now Emily was dead. As far as Mallory knew, Toby was, too.

I’m not handling this,” Rebecca told me. “She looks so much like her, Avery.” Rebecca sounded beyond angry, beyond gutted, her voice a mosaic of far too many emotions to be contained in one body. “She even sounds like Emily.”

Rebecca’s entire life growing up had been about her sister. She’d been raised to make herself small.

“Do you need me to tell you that Eve isn’t Emily?” I asked.

Rebecca swallowed. “Well, she doesn’t seem to hate me, so…”

“Hate you?” I asked.

Rebecca sat and pulled her knees tight to her chest. “The last thing Em and I ever did was fight. Do you know how hard she would have made me work to be forgiven for that? For being right?” They’d fought about Emily’s plans for that night—the plans that had gotten her killed. “Hell,” Rebecca said, fingering the ends of her choppy red hair, “she’d hate me for this, too.”

I sat down beside her. “Your hair?”

Some of the tightness in Rebecca’s muscles gave way, and her entire body shuddered. “Emily liked our hair long.”

Our hair. The fact that Rebecca could say that without realizing how screwed up it was, even now, made me want to hit someone on her behalf. “You’re your own person, Rebecca,” I told her, willing her to believe that. “You always have been.”

“What if I’m not good at being my own person?” Rebecca had been different these last few months. She looked

different, dressed different, went after what she wanted. She’d let Thea back in. “What if this whole thing is just the universe telling me that I don’t get to move on? Ever.” Rebecca’s chin trembled. “Maybe I’m a horrible person for wanting to.”

I’d known that seeing Eve would hurt her. I’d known that it would dredge up the past, the same way it had for Jameson—for Grayson. But this was Rebecca, cut to the bone.

“You are not a horrible person,” I said, but I wasn’t sure that could make her believe that. “Have you told Thea about Eve?” I asked.

Rebecca stood and dug the toe of her beat-up combat boot into the ground. “Why would I?”


“Don’t look at me like that, Avery.”

She was hurting. This wasn’t going to stop hurting any time soon. “What can I do?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Rebecca said, and I could hear her breaking. “Because now I have to go and figure out how to tell my mother that she has a grandchild who looks exactly like the daughter she would have chosen to keep, if the universe had given her a choice between Emily and me.”

Rebecca was here. She was alive. She was a good daughter. But her mother could still look right at her and sobbingly say that all her babies died.

“Do you want me to go with you to tell your mom?” I asked.

Rebecca shook her head, the choppy ends of her hair catching in a draft. “I’m better at wanting things now than I used to be, Avery.” She straightened, an invisible line of steel running down her spine. “But I don’t get to want you with me for this.”

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