Search

Chapter no 16

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, 2)

Wind whipping in my hair, I called Alisa from the roof to ask about the will.

“I’m unaware of any special copies of Mr. Hawthorne’s prior will, but McNamara, Ortega, and Jones certainly has an original on file that you could view.”

I knew exactly what Alisa meant when she said “special,” but just because there wasn’t an equivalent to the Red Will didn’t mean that this was a dead end. Not yet.

“How soon can I see it?” I asked, my eyes still on Jameson’s. “I need you to do two things for me first.”

I scowled. When I’d asked to see the Red Will, Alisa had leveraged my request to put me in a room with a team of stylists. “Not another makeover,” I groaned. “Because this is about as made over as I get.”

“You’re perfectly presentable these days,” Alisa assured me. “But I will need you to clear some time in your schedule for an appointment with Landon right after school.”

Landon was a media consultant. She handled PR—and prepping me to talk to the press.

“Why do I need to meet with Landon right after school?” I asked suspiciously.

“I’d like you interview-ready within the next month. We need to be sure that we’re the ones controlling the story, Avery.” Alisa paused. “Not your father.”

I couldn’t say what I wanted to say, which was that Ricky Grambs

wasn’t my father. It wasn’t his signature on my birth certificate.

“Fine,” I said sharply. “What else?” Alisa had said “two things.”

“I need you to recover your senses and let your poor bodyguard onto that roof.”

 

 

After school, I met with Landon in the Oval Room.

“Last time we met, I taught you how not to answer questions. The art of answering them is a bit more complicated. With a group of reporters, you can ignore questions you don’t want to answer. In a one-on-one interview, that ceases to be an option.”

I tried to at least look like I was paying attention to what the media consultant was saying.

“Instead of ignoring questions,” Landon continued, her posh British accent pronounced, “you have to redirect them, and you must do so in a way that ensures that people are interested enough in what you’re saying that they fail to notice when you take a detour directly toward one of your preordained talking points.”

“My talking points,” I echoed, but my thoughts were on Tobias Hawthorne’s will.

Landon’s deep brown eyes didn’t miss much. She arched an eyebrow at me, and I forced myself to focus.

“Lovely,” she declared. “The first thing you need to decide is what you want people taking away from any given interview. To do that, you will need to formulate a personal theme, exactly six talking points, and no fewer than two dozen personal anecdotes that will humanize you and redirect any category of question you might receive toward one of your talking points.”

“Is that all?” I asked dryly.

Landon ignored my tone. “Not quite. You’ll also need to learn to identify ‘no’ questions.”

I could do this. I could be a good little heiress celebrity. I could refrain from rolling my eyes. “What are ‘no’ questions?”

“They’re questions that you can answer in a single word, most typically no. If you can’t spin a question around to a talking point, or if talking too much will make you look guilty, then you need to be able to look the interviewer in the eye and, without sounding the least bit defensive, give her that one-word answer. No. Yes. Sometimes.

The way she said those words sounded so sincere—and she hadn’t even been asked a question.

“I don’t have anything to feel guilty about,” I pointed out. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“That,” she said evenly, “is exactly the kind of thing that is going to make you sound defensive.”

 

 

Landon gave me homework, and I left our session determined to ensure that Alisa held up her end of the bargain. An hour later, Oren, Alisa, Jameson, and I were on the way to the law firm of McNamara, Ortega, and Jones.

To my surprise, Xander was sitting out front when we got there. “Did you tell him we were coming?” I asked Jameson as the two of us stepped out of the SUV.

“I didn’t have to,” Jameson murmured back, his eyes narrowing. “He’s a Hawthorne.” He raised his voice loud enough for Xander to hear it. “And he’d better not have me bugged.”

The fact that surveillance technology was even a possibility here said a lot about their childhood.

“It’s a wonderful day for looking at legal documents,” Xander replied cheerfully, sidestepping the comment about having Jameson bugged.

Neither Alisa nor Oren said a word as the five of us entered the building and rode the elevator up. When the doors opened, my lawyer led me to a corner office, where a document was lying on the desk. Déjà vu.

Alisa gave the three of us an Alisa Look. “I’ll leave the door open,” she announced, taking up a position next to Oren, right outside the door.

Jameson called after her, amused. “Would you close the door if I promised very sincerely not to ravish your client?”

“Jameson!” I hissed.

Alisa glanced back and rolled her eyes. “I’ve literally known you since you were in diapers,” she told Jameson. “And you have always been trouble.”

The door stayed open.

Jameson cut his eyes toward me and gave a little shrug. “Guilty as charged.”

Before I could reply, Xander vaulted past us to get to the will first.

Jameson and I crowded in beside him. All three of us read.

I, Tobias Tattersall Hawthorne, being of sound body and mind, decree that my worldly possessions, including all monetary and physical assets, be disposed of as follows:

In the event that I predecease my wife, Alice O’Day Hawthorne, all my assets and worldly possessions shall be bequeathed unto her. In the event that Alice O’Day Hawthorne predeceases me, the terms of my will shall be as follows:

To Andrew and Lottie Laughlin, for years of loyal service, I bequeath a sum of one hundred thousand dollars apiece, with lifelong, rent-free tenancy granted in Wayback Cottage, located on the western border of my Texas estate.

Xander tapped his finger against that sentence. “Sounds familiar.”

The bit about the Laughlins had appeared in Tobias Hawthorne’s more recent will as well. Going on instinct, I scanned the will in front of us for other similarities. Oren wasn’t mentioned in this one, but Nan was, under the exact same terms as Tobias Hawthorne’s later will. Then I came to the part about the Hawthorne daughters.

To my daughter Skye Hawthorne, I leave my compass, may she always know true north. To my daughter Zara, I leave my wedding ring, may she love as wholly and steadfastly as I loved her mother.

The wording there was familiar, too, but in his final will, Tobias Hawthorne had also left his daughters money to cover all debts accrued as of his date of death, and a onetime inheritance of fifty thousand dollars. In this version, he really had left them nothing except trinkets. Nash, the only Hawthorne grandson who’d been born before this will was written, wasn’t mentioned at all. There was no provision allowing the Hawthorne family to continue living in Hawthorne House. Instead, the rest of the will was simple.

The remainder of my estate, including all properties, monetary assets, and worldly possessions not otherwise specified, is to be liquefied and the proceeds split equally among the following charities…

The list that followed was long—dozens in total.

Attached to the back of Tobias Hawthorne’s will was a copy of his wife’s will, containing nearly identical terms. If she died first, everything went to her husband. If he predeceased her, their assets went to charity— with the same bequests to the Laughlins and Nan, and nothing left to Zara and Skye.

“Your grandmother was in on it,” I told the boys.

“She died right before Grayson was born,” Jameson said. “Everyone says the grief over Toby killed her.”

Had the old man told his wife that their son was still alive? Had he known—or even suspected—the truth back when this will was written?

I returned my attention to the document and read it again from the top. “There are only two major differences between this will and the last one,” I said when I was done.

“You aren’t in this one.” Xander ticked off the first. “Which, barring time travel, makes sense, given that you weren’t born until three years after it was written.”

“And the charities.” Jameson was in laser-focus mode. He didn’t so much as spare a glance for his brother—or for me. “If there’s a clue in here, it’s in that list.”

Xander grinned. “And you know what that means, Jamie.”

Jameson made a face that suggested that he did, in fact, know what that meant.

“What?” I asked.

Jameson sighed theatrically. “Don’t mind me. This is what I look like when I’m preparing to be painfully bored and predictably annoyed. If we want the rundown on the charities on this list, there’s an efficient way of getting it. Prepare yourself for a lecture, Heiress.”

That was the exact moment when I realized what he was talking about— and who had the information we needed. The member of the Hawthorne

family who knew its charitable works intimately. Someone I’d already told about Toby. “Grayson.”

You'll Also Like