Chapter no 9

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games, 3)

didn’t tell Eve about the disk. I justified it to myself because, for all I knew, there was nothing to tell. Not every mystery was an elaborate puzzle. The answer wasn’t always elegant and carefully designed. And even if Toby’s abduction did have something to do with the disk, where did that leave us?

Feeling like I owed Eve something, I asked Mrs. Laughlin to prepare her a room. Tears overflowed the moment the older woman laid eyes on her great-granddaughter. There was no hiding who Eve was.

No hiding that she belonged here.



Hours later, I was alone in Tobias Hawthorne’s study. I told myself that I was doing the right thing, giving Jameson and Grayson space. Seeing Eve had dredged up trauma. They needed to process, and I needed to think.

I triggered the hidden compartment in the old man’s desk and reached for the folder that Jameson and I kept inside. Flipping it open, I stared at a drawing I’d made: a small coinlike disk the size of a quarter, engraved with concentric circles. The last time I’d seen this bit of metal, Toby had just snatched it from my hands. I’d asked him what it was. He hadn’t answered. All I really knew was what I’d read in a message Toby had once written to my mother: that if she ever needed anything, she should go to Jackson. You know what I left there, Toby had written. You know what it’s worth.

I stared at the drawing. You know what it’s worth. Coming from the son of a billionaire, that was almost unfathomable. In the months since Toby had left, Jameson and I had scoured books on art and ancient civilizations, on rare coins, lost treasures, and great archeological finds. We’d even researched organizations like the Freemasons and the Knights Templar.

Spreading that research out on the desk, I looked for something, anything we’d missed, but there was no record of the disk anywhere, and Jameson’s globe-trotting search of Hawthorne vacation properties hadn’t turned up anything meaningful, either.

“Who knows about the disk?” I let myself think out loud. “Who knows what it’s worth and that Toby had it?”

Who even knew for certain that Toby was alive, let alone where to find him?

All I had were questions. It felt wrong that Jameson wasn’t here asking them with me.

Without meaning to, I reached back into the hidden compartment, to another file, one that billionaire Tobias Hawthorne had assembled on me. Did the old man know about Eve? I couldn’t shake the feeling that if Tobias Hawthorne had known about Toby’s daughter, I wouldn’t be here. The billionaire had chosen me largely for the effect it would have on his family. He’d used me to force the boys to confront their issues, to pull Toby back onto the board.

It should have been her.

A creak sounded behind me. I turned to see Xander stepping out of the wall. One look at his face told me that my BHFF had seen our visitor.

“I come in peace,” he announced gravely. “I come with pie.”

“He comes with me.” Max stepped into the room behind Xander. “What the ever-faxing elf is going on, Avery?”

Xander set the pie down on the desk. “I brought three forks.”

I read meaning into his grim tone. “You’re upset.” “About sharing this pie?”

I looked away. “About Eve.”

“You knew,” Xander told me, more injury than accusation in his tone.

I forced myself to meet his eyes. “I did.”

“All those times playing Cookie Golf together, and you didn’t think this was worth mentioning?” Xander pulled off a piece of pie crust and brandished it in the air. “This might have escaped your attention, but I happen to excel at keeping secrets! I have a mouth like a steel trap.”

Max snorted. “Isn’t the expression ‘a mind like a steel trap’?”

“My mind is more like a roller coaster inside a labyrinth buried in an M. C. Escher painting that is riding on another roller coaster.” Xander shrugged. “But my mouth is a steel trap. Just ask me about all the secrets I’m keeping.”

“What secrets are you keeping?” Max asked obligingly. “I can’t tell you!” Xander triumphantly dug his fork into

the pie.

“So if I’d told you that Toby had a daughter out there who looked exactly like Emily Laughlin, you wouldn’t have told Rebecca?” I said, referring to Emily’s sister and Xander’s oldest friend.

“I definitely, one hundred percent, entirely… would have told Rebecca,” Xander admitted. “In retrospect, good on you for not telling me. Excellent call, shows solid judgment.”

My phone rang. I looked down at it, then back up at Xander and Max. “It’s Oren.” My heart beating in my ears, I answered. “What do we know?”

“Not much. Not yet. I sent a team to the rendezvous point where Eve said she was supposed to meet Toby. There was no physical evidence of an altercation, but with a little digging, we did find record of a nine-one-one call, placed hours before Eve said she showed up.”

My hand tightened around the phone. “What kind of nine-one-one call?”

“Shots fired.” Oren didn’t soften the words. “By the time a patrol unit got there, the scene was clear. They put it down to fireworks or a car backfiring.”

“Who called nine-one-one?” I asked. “Did anyone see anything?”

“My team is working on it.” Oren paused. “In the meantime, I’ve assigned one of my men to shadow Eve for the duration of her stay at Hawthorne House.”

“Do you think she’s a threat?” My hand went reflexively, again, to my Hawthorne pin.

“My job is to treat everyone like a threat,” Oren replied. “Right now, what I need is for you to promise that you’ll stay put and do nothing.” My gaze went to the research spread across the desk. “My team and I will find out everything we can as quickly as we can, Avery. Toby might be the target here, but he also might not be.”

I frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Give us twenty-four hours, and I’ll let you know.”

Twenty-four hours? I was just supposed to sit here, doing nothing, for twenty-four hours? I hung up the phone.

“Does Oren think Eve is a threat?” Max asked in a dramatic stage-whisper.

Xander made a face. “Note to self: Cancel the welcome festivities.”

I thought about Oren telling me to let him handle it, then about Eve swearing that all she wanted was to find Toby. “No,” I told Xander. “Don’t cancel anything. I want to get a feel for Eve.” I needed to know if we could trust her because if we could, maybe she knew something I didn’t. “Got any particular festivities in mind?” I asked.

Xander pressed his hands together. “I believe that our best option for assessing the truth of the mysterious Eve’s character is… Chutes and Ladders.”

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