Chapter no 40

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, 2)

The inside of the house matched the outside perfectly. The living room ceiling stretched up two stories, with giant beams visible in the rafters. The floors were wood, the walls wood-paneled, and everything—the furniture, the rugs, the light fixtures—was oversized. Fur throws draped the enormous leather sofa—softer than anything I’d ever felt.

A fire crackled in a stone fireplace, and I walked toward it, mesmerized. “There are four bedrooms on this floor, two at basement level, and two

up.” Alisa paused. “I’ve put you in the biggest bedroom on this floor.”

I turned away from the fire and tried to make my next question sound natural. “Actually… which bedroom was Skye’s?”



The stairway to the third floor was lined with family photographs. It looked almost… normal. The frames weren’t expensive. The photos were snapshots. There was one of a much younger Grayson, Jameson, and Xander with their heads sticking out of a tent. Another of what appeared to be a chicken fight between all four brothers. One of Nash with his arms around Alisa. And farther up the wall there were photos of Tobias Hawthorne’s children.

Including Toby.

I tried not to stare at pictures of Toby Hawthorne at twelve and fourteen and sixteen, searching for some kind of resemblance to myself. I failed. There was one photo in particular—it was impossible for me to look away. Toby was standing between teenage girls I assumed to be Zara and Skye. It had obviously been taken at True North. All three of them were on skis. All three were smiling.

And I thought that maybe Toby’s smile looked a bit like mine.

At the top of the stairs, Max and I deposited our bags in the room that we’d been told was once Skye’s. With a glance back over my shoulder, I closed the door.

“Look for hidden compartments,” I told Max as I examined a wooden chest. “Secret drawers, loose floor panels, false backs to the furniture—that kind of thing.”

“Sure,” Max said, drawing out the word as she watched me making quick work of the wooden chest. “Absolutely. That is a thing I know how to do.”

It wasn’t that I expected to hit payload immediately, but after searching Toby’s wing, I knew how to look. I didn’t find anything of note until I ventured into the closet. There were clothes hanging on the racks and sweaters folded on the shelves. None of them looked like things I would expect Skye to wear now. I went through the items one by one and eventually came to the ski jacket that Skye had been wearing in the picture on the stairs. How old had she been when she wore this? Fifteen? Sixteen?

Had these clothes been hanging in this closet that long?

A thump sounded on the other side of the closet wall, and then I heard a creak. Parting the clothes, I saw a crack of light at the back of the closet and found the source. There, cut directly into the wall, was a small door. I pushed, and the wall moved, allowing me to step into a narrow passageway beyond.

The passageway smelled like cedar. I felt around for the walls, then managed to locate a light switch. The moment I turned it on, I saw a pair of eyes.

Someone stepped toward me.

I scrambled back, meeting the eyes—and stifling a scream as I recognized them. “Thea!”

“What?” she said with a small smirk. “Feeling jumpy?” Beyond her, I could see Rebecca standing near a second doorway, identical to the one behind me.

“Whose room is that?” I asked.

“It used to be Zara’s,” Rebecca murmured. “I’m staying here tonight.” Thea turned to shoot her a meaningful look. “Good to know.”

Pushing past them, I explored Zara’s room and found a closet nearly

identical to Skye’s. The clothes on the racks tended more toward icy-blue tones, but like Skye’s closet, this one looked like it had been frozen in time. “I found something.” Thea announced, back in the passageway. “And

you’re welcome.”

I backtracked. Rebecca followed me, and Max squeezed into the passageway from the other side. It was a tight fit, but I managed to kneel next to Thea, who was holding a wooden board in her hands.

One of the floorboards, I realized as she set it aside to reach into the compartment she’d bared.

“What is it?” I said as she withdrew an object.

“A glass bottle?” Max leaned into Thea to get a better look. “With a message inside. A message in a motherfaxing bottle! Now we’re cooking.”

“Motherfaxing?” Thea arched a brow at Max, then stood and sauntered past me, back into Zara’s room. She tipped the bottle upside down on a nearby desk, and with some jiggling, a small piece of paper fell out. As Thea attempted to unroll it, I noted that it was yellowed with age.

“I’m guessing that’s pretty old,” Max said.

I thought about Tobias Hawthorne’s will. “Like, twenty years?” But when Thea finished unraveling the paper, the writing I saw on the missive wasn’t Tobias Hawthorne’s. It was cursive, with the occasional embellishment, neat enough that it could have passed for a font.


“I don’t think this is what we came here to find,” I said. Had I really thought it would be that easy? Still, I read the message. We all did.

You knew, and you did it anyway. I will never forgive you for this.

“Did what?” Thea queried. “Knew what?”

I stated the obvious out loud. “These rooms were Zara’s and Skye’s.” “In my experience, Zara isn’t what I’d call the forgiving type.” Thea

looked toward Rebecca. “Bex? Any thoughts? You know the Hawthorne family as well as anyone.”

Rebecca didn’t reply immediately. I thought about the picture I’d seen of Zara, Skye, and Toby smiling. Had the three of them been close once?

The tree is poison, don’t you see? Toby had written. It poisoned S and Z and me.

“Well?” I asked Rebecca. “Did you ever overhear any arguments between Zara and Skye?”

“I overheard a lot of things growing up.” Rebecca gave a little shrug. “People paid attention to Emily, not me.”

Thea put a hand on Rebecca’s shoulder. For a moment, Rebecca leaned into Thea’s touch.

“I don’t know who did what to whom,” Rebecca said, looking down at that hand. “But I do know…” She took a step back from Thea. “Some things are unforgivable.”

Why did I get the feeling that she wasn’t still talking about Zara and Skye?

“People aren’t perfect,” Thea told Rebecca. “No matter how hard they try. No matter how much they hate showing weakness. People make mistakes.”

Rebecca’s lips parted, but she didn’t say anything.

Max raised her eyebrows, then turned to me. “So,” she said loudly. “Mistakes.”

I turned back to look out the window again and focus on the task at hand. What “mistake” poisoned the relationship between Zara and Skye?

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