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Chapter no 4

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, 2)

The owner’s suite had a perfect view of the fifty-yard line, but an hour before kickoff, no one was looking at the field. The suite extended back and widened, and the farther you got from the seats, the more it looked like an upscale bar or club. Tonight, I was the entertainment—an oddity, a curiosity, a paper doll dressed up just so. For what felt like an eternity, I shook hands, posed for photographers, and pretended to understand football jokes. I managed not to gawk at a pop star, a former vice president, and a tech giant who probably made more money in the time it took him to urinate than most people made in a lifetime.

My brain pretty much stopped functioning when I heard the phrase “Her Highness” and realized there was actual royalty in attendance.

Alisa must have sensed that I was reaching my limit. “It’s almost time for kickoff,” she said, laying one hand lightly on my shoulder—probably to keep me from fleeing. “Let’s get you in your seat.”

I made it until halftime, then bolted for real. Grayson intercepted me. Wordlessly, he nodded to one side and then started walking, confident that I would follow.

Despite myself, I did. What I found was a second elevator.

“This one goes up,” he told me. Going anywhere with Grayson Hawthorne was probably a mistake, but given that the alternative was more mingling, I decided to take my chances.

The two of us rode the elevator up in silence. The door opened to a small room with five seats, all empty. The view of the field was even better than it was below.

“My grandfather could only mingle in the suite for so long before he got fed up and came up here,” Grayson told me. “My brothers and I were the only ones allowed to join him.”

I sat and stared out at the stadium. There were so many people in the

crowd. The energy, the chaos, the sheer volume of it was overwhelming. But in here, it was silent.

“I thought you might come to the game with Jameson.” Grayson made no move to sit, like he didn’t trust himself too close to me. “The two of you have been spending a lot of time together.”

That irritated me, for reasons I couldn’t even explain. “Your brother and I have a bet going.”

“What kind of bet?”

I had no intention of answering, but when I let my eyes travel toward his, I couldn’t resist saying the one thing guaranteed to get a reaction. “Toby is alive.”

To someone else, Grayson’s reaction might not have been noticeable, but I saw the jolt go through him. His gray eyes were glued to me now. “Pardon me?”

“Your uncle is alive and gets his jollies by pretending to be a homeless man in New Castle, Connecticut.” I probably could have been a little more delicate.

Grayson came closer. He deigned to sit next to me, tension visible in his arms as he folded his hands together between his knees. “What, precisely, are you talking about, Avery?”

I wasn’t used to hearing him call me by my first name. It was too late to take back what I’d said. “I saw a picture of Toby in your nan’s locket.” I closed my eyes, flashing back to that moment. “I recognized him. He told me that his name was Harry. We played chess in the park every week for more than a year.” I opened my eyes again. “Jameson and I aren’t sure what the story is there—yet. We have a bet going about who finds out first.”

“Who have you told?” Grayson’s voice was deadly serious. “About the bet?”

“About Toby.”

“Nan was there when I found out. I was going to tell Alisa, but—” “Don’t,” Grayson cut in. “Don’t breathe a word of this to anyone. You

understand?”

I stared at him. “I’m starting to get the feeling that I don’t.”

“My mother has no grounds on which to challenge the will. My aunt has no grounds on which to challenge the will. But Toby?” Grayson had grown up as the heir apparent. Of all the Hawthorne brothers, he had taken being

disinherited the hardest. “If my uncle is alive, he is the one person on this planet who might be able to break the old man’s will.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” I told him. “From my perspective, sure. But from yours…”

“My mother cannot find out. Zara cannot find out.” Grayson’s expression was intense, everything in him focused on me. “McNamara, Ortega, and Jones cannot find out.”

In the week that Jameson and I had been discussing this turn of events, we’d been completely focused on the mystery—not on what might happen if Tobias Hawthorne’s lost heir suddenly turned up alive.

“Aren’t you even a little bit curious?” I asked Grayson. “About what this means?”

“I know what this means,” Grayson replied tersely. “I am telling you what this means, Avery.”

“If your uncle were interested in inheriting, don’t you think he would have come forward by now?” I asked. “Unless there’s a reason he’s in hiding.”

“Then let him hide. Do you have any idea how risky—” Grayson didn’t get to finish that question.

“What’s life without a little risk, brother?”

I turned toward the elevator. I hadn’t noticed it going down or coming back up, but there Jameson was. He strolled past Grayson and settled into the seat on the other side of mine. “Made any progress on our bet, Heiress?”

I snorted. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

Jameson smirked, then opened his mouth to say something else, but his words were drowned out by an explosion. More than one. Gunfire. Panic shot through my veins, and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground. Where’s the shooter? This was like Black Wood. Just like the Black Wood.

“Heiress.”

I couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. And then Jameson was on the floor with me. He brought his face level with mine and cupped my head in his hands. “Fireworks,” he told me. “It’s just fireworks, Heiress, for halftime.”

My brain registered his words, but my body was still lost in memory. Jameson had been there in the Black Wood with me. He’d thrown his body over mine.

“You’re okay, Avery.” Grayson knelt beside Jameson, beside me. “We

won’t let anything hurt you.” For a long, drawn-out moment, there wasn’t a sound in the room except our breathing. Grayson’s. Jameson’s. And mine.

“Just fireworks,” I repeated back to Jameson, my chest tight.

Grayson stood, but Jameson stayed exactly where he was. He stared at me, his body against mine. There was something almost tender in his expression. I swallowed—and then his lips twisted into a wicked smile.

“For the record, Heiress, have been making excellent progress on our bet.” He let his thumb trace the outline of my jaw.

I shuddered, then glared at him and climbed to my feet. For the sake of my own sanity, I needed to win this bet. Fast.

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