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Chapter no 10

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, 2)

True to Oren’s word, Eli stuck to my side at school. Despite my head of security’s promise about “blending,” there was nothing discreet about being a seventeen-year-old with a bodyguard.

American Studies. Philosophy of Mindfulness. Calculus. Making Meaning. As I sat through my classes, my fellow students didn’t stare. They not-stared—so conspicuously, it felt worse. By the time I made it to Physics, I was ready to take my chances with the internet commenters and locker vandals of the world on my own.

“Can you just wait in the hall?” I asked Eli.

“If I want to be out of a job,” he replied gamely, “sure.”

Part of me had to wonder if Oren was really going to this length because of the locker incident—or if it was because Ricky was in town and making noise.

Trying to shut out that thought, I plopped down into a seat. On a normal day, the fact that my high school physics laboratory looked like something that belonged at NASA would still have provoked some awe, but today I had other things on my mind.

Right before class began, Thea sat down at my lab table. She raked her eyes over Eli, then turned back to me. “Not bad,” she murmured.

My life was literally a tabloid story, but at least Thea Calligaris thought my new bodyguard was hot.

“What do you want?” I asked her under my breath.

“Things I’m not supposed to,” Thea mused. “Things I can’t have.

Anything that I’m told is just out of reach.”

“What do you want from me?” I clarified, keeping my voice low enough to prevent anyone but Eli from overhearing.

Class started before Thea deigned to answer, and she didn’t speak again until we were let loose on the lab assignment. “Rebecca and I were there

when Sir Geeks-a-Lot sank that letter of his in the tub,” Thea said lightly. “We know all about the new game.” Her expression shifted, and for a split second Thea Calligaris looked almost vulnerable. “It’s the first thing in an eternity that has gotten Bex to wake up.”

“Wake up?” I repeated. I knew that Thea and Rebecca had a history. I knew that they’d split up in the wake of Emily’s death, that Rebecca had withdrawn from everyone and everything.

But I had no idea why Thea expected me to care about either of them now.

“You don’t know her,” Thea told me, her voice low. “You don’t know what Emily’s death did to her. If she wants to help Xander with this? I’m going to help her. And I just thought that you might want to know that we know about you-know-who.” About Toby. “We’re in this. And we’re not telling anyone.”

“Is that a threat?” I asked, my eyes narrowing.

“Literally the opposite of a threat.” Thea gave an elegant little shrug, like she really didn’t care whether I trusted her or not.

“Fine,” I said. Thea was Zara’s niece by marriage. That Toby was alive wasn’t a secret I would have trusted her with, but Xander had—which made no sense, because Xander didn’t even like Thea.

Deciding it was useless to engage further, I focused first on my lab work, then on what we’d found in Toby’s room the night before. The cipher disk. The poem. Was there something else in the room we were supposed to find and decode?

Beside me, Thea placed her tablet flat on the table. I glanced at it and realized that she’d done the same search that Xander had the day before, for “A Poison Tree.” I took that to mean that Xander had told her—and presumably Rebecca—exactly what we’d found.

I’m going to kill him, I thought, but then my eyes caught on one of the results that Thea’s search had turned up: fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine.

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