Chapter no 8

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games, 3)

let Eve use my shower. Given the number of bathrooms in Hawthorne House, I recognized that decision for what it was: I wanted her where I could keep an eye on her.

I neglected to consider the fact that Jameson was still in my bed. Eve didn’t seem to notice him on her way to my en suite, but Grayson did—and Jameson definitely noticed Eve. The moment the bathroom door closed behind her, he swung his feet over the side of the bed.

Shirtless. “Tell me everything, Heiress.”

I searched his expression for some hint of what he was feeling, but Jameson Hawthorne was the consummate poker player. Seeing Eve had to have provoked some kind of emotion in him. The fact that he was hiding it hit me every bit as hard as the way that Grayson couldn’t tear his eyes from the bathroom door.

“I don’t know where to start,” I said. I couldn’t make myself say the words It’s Toby.

Jameson crossed to me, his strides long. “Tell me what you need, Heiress.”

Grayson finally pried his gaze away from the bathroom door. He bent, snatched an undershirt off the floor, and tossed it at his brother’s face. “Put on a shirt.”

Somehow, the comically disgruntled look that Jameson shot Grayson was exactly what I needed. I told the two of them everything that Eve had told me. “Eve wasn’t able to give Oren a lot of details,” I finished. “He’s putting together a team to run recon on the abduction site, but—”

“They’re unlikely to find much at this point,” Grayson


“Convenient, that,” Jameson commented. “What?” he said when Grayson’s icy eyes narrowed. “I’m just saying that all we have right now is the story of a stranger who showed up on our doorstep and talked her way inside.”

He was right. We didn’t know Eve.

“You don’t believe her?” Grayson wasn’t normally the type to ask questions when the answers were already apparent, so this one came with an undercurrent of friction.

“What can I say?” Jameson shrugged again. “I’m a suspicious bastard.”

And Eve looks just like Emily, I thought. Jameson wasn’t unaffected by that. Not by a long shot.

“I don’t think she’s lying,” I said. That wound.

“You wouldn’t,” Jameson told me softly. “And neither,” he told Grayson in a very different tone, “would you.”

That was clearly a reference to Emily. She’d played them both, manipulated them both, but Grayson had loved her to the end.

“You knew.” Grayson stalked toward Jameson. “You knew she was out there, Jamie. You knew that Toby had a daughter, and you didn’t say a word.”

“Are you really going to lecture me about secrets, Gray?”

What’s he talking about? I’d never said a word to Jameson about the things that his brother had admitted to me in the dark of night.

“At a minimum,” Grayson enunciated, his voice soft and deadly, “we owe that girl our protection.”

“Because of the way she looks?” Jameson threw down the gauntlet.

“Because she’s Toby’s daughter,” Grayson replied, “and that makes her one of us.”

My fingers went to my pin. Eve’s a Hawthorne. That shouldn’t have hurt. It wasn’t news. Eve was Toby’s daughter—but it was already clear to me that Grayson

didn’t see her as a cousin. She isn’t related to them by blood. They didn’t grow up together. So when Grayson said that she was one of them, that they owed her protection, all I could think was that he’d once spoken similar words about me.

Est unus ex nobis. Nos defendat eius.

“Can we please just focus on Toby?” I said. Grayson must have heard something in my tone because he stepped back.

Stepped down.

I turned to Jameson. “Pretend for a second that you trust Eve. Pretend she looks nothing like Emily. Pretend she’s telling the truth. Other than Oren’s search, what’s our next move?”

This was what Jameson and I did: questions and answers, looking for what other people missed. If he wouldn’t do this with me, if seeing Eve had thrown him off that much…

“Motive,” Jameson supplied finally. “If we want to find out who took Toby, we need to know why they took him.”

Logically, I could think of three broad possibilities. “They want something from him. They want to use him as leverage.” I swallowed. “Or they want to hurt him.”

They knew his real name. Somehow, they knew how to find him.

“There has to be something we’re missing,” I said. I needed this to be a puzzle. I needed there to be clues.

“You mentioned that Eve said the person who knocked her out went through her pockets.” Jameson had a way of playing with the facts of a situation, turning them over like a coin spun from finger to finger. “So what were they looking for?”

What did Toby have that someone else might want badly enough to kidnap him to get it? What could possibly be worth that kind of risk?

What fits in a pocket? My heart nearly exploded in my chest.

What mystery had Jameson and I spent the last nine months trying to solve?

“The disk,” I breathed.

The door to the bathroom opened. Eve stood there, wrapped in a white towel, wet hair trailing down the sides of her neck. She wore a locket and nothing else except the towel. Grayson tried very hard not to look at her.

Jameson looked at me.

“Did you need something?” I asked Eve. Her hair was darker wet, less remarkable. Without it to distract from her face, her eyes looked bigger, her cheekbones higher.

“Bandage,” Eve replied. If she was self-conscious about standing there in a towel, she didn’t show it. “My cut split open in the shower.”

“I’ll help you,” I volunteered before Grayson could. The sooner I tended to Eve, the sooner I could get back to Jameson and the possibility I’d just breathed into being.

What if the person who took Toby was after the disk? My mind racing, I led Eve back into the bathroom.

“What disk?” she asked behind me. I pulled out a first aid kit and handed it to her. She took it from me, her fingers brushing mine. “When I came into the room, you were talking about what happened to Toby,” she said stubbornly. “You mentioned a disk.”

I wondered how much else she’d heard and whether she’d meant to eavesdrop. Maybe Jameson was right. Maybe we couldn’t trust her.

“It might be nothing,” I said, brushing off the question. “What might be nothing?” Eve pressed. When I didn’t

answer, she dropped another question like a bomb. “Who’s Emily?”

I swallowed. “A girl.” That wasn’t a lie, but it was so far from the truth that I couldn’t leave it there. “She died. The two of you—you’re related.”

Eve chose a bandage and pushed her wet hair back from her face. I almost offered to help her, but something held

me back. “Toby told me he was adopted,” she said, fixing the bandage in place. “But he wouldn’t tell me anything about his biological family—or the Hawthornes.”

She waited, like she expected me to tell her something. When I didn’t, she looked down. “I know that you don’t trust me,” she said. “I wouldn’t trust me, either. You have everything, and I have nothing, and I know how that looks.”

So did I. From experience, so did I.

“I never wanted to come here,” Eve continued. “I never wanted to ask you for anything—or them.” Her voice strained. “But I want Toby back. I want my father back, Avery.” Her emerald eyes locked on mine, radiating an intensity that was nearly Hawthorne. “And I will do anything—anything—to get what I want, even if that means begging for your help. So please, Avery, if you know something that could help us find Toby, just tell me.”

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