Chapter no 7

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games, 3)

Grayson Davenport Hawthorne was a person who valued control—of every situation, of every emotion. When I took a step toward him, he stepped back.

“Grayson,” I said softly.

There were no words for the way he was staring at Eve— like she was a dream, every hope and every torment, everything.

Silvery gray eyes closed. “Avery. You should…” Grayson forced a breath in, out. He straightened and squared his shoulders. “I’m not safe to be around right now, Avery.”

It took me a moment to realize that he thought he was hallucinating. Again. Breaking down. Again.

Tell me again that I’m not broken.

Closing the space between us, I took Grayson by the shoulders. “Hey,” I said softly. “Hey. Look at me, Gray.”

Those light eyes opened.

“That’s not Emily.” I held his gaze and wouldn’t let him look away. “And you aren’t hallucinating.”

Grayson’s eyes flickered over my shoulder. “I see—”

“I know,” I said, bringing my hand to the side of his face and forcing his eyes back to mine. “She’s real. Her name is Eve.” I couldn’t be sure he was hearing me, let alone processing what I was saying. “She’s Toby’s daughter.”

“She looks…”

“I know,” I said, my hand still on his jaw. “Emily’s mom was Toby’s biological mother, remember?” Newborn Toby had been adopted into the Hawthorne family in secret. Alice Hawthorne had faked a pregnancy to hide the

adoption, passing him off as her own. “That makes Eve a Laughlin by blood,” I continued. “There’s a family resemblance.”

“I thought—” Grayson cut off the words. A Hawthorne did not admit weakness. “You knew.” Grayson looked down at me, and I finally let my hand fall away from his face. “You aren’t surprised to see her, Avery. You knew.”

I heard what he wasn’t saying: That night in the wine cellar—I knew.

“Toby wanted her existence kept secret,” I said, telling myself that was why I hadn’t told him. “He didn’t want this life for Eve.”

“Who else knows?” Grayson demanded in that heir- apparent tone, the one that made questions sound perfunctory, like he was doing the person he was questioning a courtesy by asking instead of wresting the answer from their mind himself.

“Just Jameson,” I replied.

After a long, torturous moment, Grayson looked past me to Eve, emotion etched in every muscle of his jaw. I wasn’t sure how much of his torment was because he thought I considered him weak and how much of it was her. Either way, Grayson didn’t hide from his pain this time. He walked toward Eve, letting it come, like a shirtless man stepping out into freezing rain.

Eve stared at him. She must have felt the intensity of the moment—of him—but she shook it off. “Look, I don’t know what this is.” She gestured in the vicinity of Grayson’s face. “But it has been a really long week. I’m filthy. I’m scared.” Her voice broke, and she turned to me. “So are you going to invite me inside and let your security goons figure out what happened to Toby, or are we just going to stand here?”

Grayson blinked, like he was seeing her—Eve—for the first time. “You’re hurt.”

She looked at him again. “I’m pissed.”

I swallowed. Eve was right. Every second we spent out here was a second that Oren and his team were focused on safeguarding me instead of finding Toby.

“Come on,” I said, the words like rocks in my throat. “Let’s go back to the House.”

Oren opened the back passenger door of the SUV. Eve climbed in, and as I followed, I wondered if this was what Pandora had felt like the moment she opened the box.

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