Chapter no 84

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games, 3)

Vincent Blake would honor our wager, but he never wanted to see me on his property again. “Escort Avery, Grayson, and Ms. Ortega back to the gate,” he ordered his men. “See that the press is dispersed before they get there.”

A hand locked around my forearm, suggesting exactly what kind of “escort” I could expect. But the next thing I knew, the man who’d grabbed me was on the ground, and Toby was standing over him. “I’ll escort them,” he said.

Blake’s men looked to their boss.

Vincent Blake gave Toby a foreboding smile. “As you wish, Tobias Blake.”

The name was a razor-sharp reminder: I might have won my wager, but Toby had lost his. With a hand on my back, he led me away, back around the house.

We’d nearly made it to the driveway when a voice spoke behind us. “Stop.”

I wanted to ignore Eve, but I couldn’t. Slowly, I turned to face her, aware that Grayson was exercising ironclad control over any impulse he might have felt to do the same. “You let me win,” Eve said. That was an accusation, furious and low. Her gaze slipped to Toby’s. “Did you throw our game, too?” she asked him, her voice shaking. When Toby didn’t reply, Eve turned back to me. “Did he?” she


“Does it matter?” I asked. “You got what you wanted.”

Eve had won all five seals. She was now the sole heir to Blake’s empire.

“I wanted,” Eve whispered, her voice quiet but brutally fierce, “for once in my life, to prove to someone that I was good enough.” Her eyes betrayed her, going to Grayson, but he didn’t turn around. “I wanted Blake to see me,” Eve continued, her gaze coming back to mine, “but now the only thing he is ever going to see when he looks at me is you.”

I’d used Eve to best Blake, and she was right—he would never forget that.

“I saw you, Eve.” Grayson’s voice was emotionless, his body still. “You could have been one of us.”

Eve’s expression wavered, and for the barest moment, I was reminded of the little girl in the locket. Then the person in front of me straightened, a haughty look settling over her features like a porcelain mask. “The girl you knew,” she told Grayson, “was a lie.”

If she thought that would get a rise out of Grayson Davenport Hawthorne, she was wrong.

“Get them out of here.” Eve whipped her head toward Toby. “Now.”

“Eve—” Toby started to say.

“I said go.” A spark of victory, hard and cruel, glinted in her emerald eyes. “You’ll be back.”

That felt like an arrow aimed at my heart. Toby doesn’t have a choice.

Without flinching, he escorted me away from his daughter and didn’t speak until he, Alisa, Grayson, and I had made it to the truck.

“What you did back there with Blake was very risky,” Toby told me—half censure, half praise.

I shrugged. “You’re the one who chose my name.” Avery Kylie Grambs. A very risky gamble. Toby had helped bring me into the world. He’d named me. He’d come to me when my mother died. He’d saved me when I needed saving.

And now I was losing him all over again.

“What happens now?” I asked him, my eyes beginning to

sting, my throat tight.

“I become Tobias Blake.” Toby had known the truth about his lineage for two decades. If he’d wanted this life, he would have been living it already.

I thought of the words he’d written in the chamber under the hedge maze. I was never a Hawthorne. I will never be a Blake.

“You don’t have to do this,” I told him. “You could run. You managed to evade Tobias Hawthorne for years. You could do the same thing with Blake now.”

“And give that man justification to renege on his deal with you?” Alisa cut in. “Invalidate one wager in a set and he could easily argue that you’ve invalidated them all.”

“I’m not running this time,” Toby said intently. I followed his gaze to Eve, who was standing on the porch again, her amber hair blowing in the wind, looking for all the world like some kind of unearthly, conquering queen.

“You’re staying for her.” I hadn’t meant that to sound like an accusation of betrayal.

“I’m staying for both of you,” Toby replied, and for a moment, I could see the two of us, hear the last conversation we’d had.

You have a daughter. I have two.

“She helped Blake kidnap you,” I said roughly. “She used me—used all of us.”

“And when I was her age,” Toby replied, opening the passenger door of the truck and gesturing for me to get in, “I killed your mother’s sister.”

I wanted to object, to say that he hadn’t lit the fire, even if he’d doused the house in gasoline, but he didn’t give me the chance.

“Hannah thought I was redeemable.” Even after all these years, Toby couldn’t reference my mom without emotion overtaking him. “Do you really think she’d want me to walk away from Eve?”

I felt a sob caught somewhere. “You could have told me,” I said, my voice scraping against my throat. “About Blake. About the body. About why you were so damn set on staying in the shadows.”

Toby lifted a hand to the side of my face, brushing my hair back from my temple. “There are a lot of things I would do differently if I could live this life all over again.”

I thought about what I’d said to Jameson about destiny and fate and choice. I knew why Tobias Hawthorne had chosen me. I knew that this had never been about me. But unlike Toby, I had no regrets. I would have done it—all of it

—all over again.

Tobias Hawthorne’s game hadn’t made me extraordinary.

It had shown me that I already was.

“Will I ever see you again?” I asked Toby, my voice breaking.

“Blake isn’t going to keep me under lock and key.” Toby waited for Alisa and Grayson to climb in after me, then closed the passenger door and rounded to the other side of the truck. When he spoke again, it was from the driver’s seat. “And Texas really isn’t that big—especially at the top.”

Money. Power. Status. My path and Vincent Blake’s would probably cross again—and so would mine and Toby’s. Mine and Eve’s.

“Here.” Toby placed a small wooden cube in my hand as he started up the truck. “I made you something, horrible girl.”

The endearment nearly undid me. “What is it?”

“Blake didn’t give me much to entertain myself with— just wood and a knife.”

“And you didn’t use the knife?” Grayson asked beside me. His tone made it very clear the kind of uses he would have approved of.

“Would you have,” Toby countered, “if you thought your captor could get to Avery?”

Toby had protected me. He’d made something for me.

You have a daughter. I have two.

I looked down at the wooden cube in my hand, thinking about my mom, about this man, about the decades and tragedies and small moments that had led all of us to right now.

“Watch out for her,” Toby told Grayson when the border of Blake’s property came into sight. “Take care of each other.” The press had been cleared out, but Oren and his men were still there waiting—and so was Jameson Winchester Hawthorne.

Grayson saw his brother standing there, and he answered on behalf of both of them. “We will.”

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