Chapter no 47

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, 2)

The clothing Alisa had ordered for me included a designer bathing suit: a black bikini trimmed in gold. Narrowing my eyes, I put it on, then quickly covered myself with a floor-length robe, the unspeakably soft kind I imagined they used in high-end spas. The hot tub was on the main level. I’d made it to the back door when I realized that Oren was shadowing me.

“You’re not going to tell me to stay inside?” I asked him. He shrugged. “I have men in the woods.” Of course he did.

I put my hand on the doorknob, took a deep breath, and pushed out into the freezing night air. Once the cold hit me, there was no room for hesitation. I made a beeline for the hot tub. It was big enough for eight people, but Jameson was the only one there. His body was nearly completely submerged. All I could see was his face pointed skyward, the lines of his neck, and the barest hint of his shoulders.

“You look like you’re thinking.” I sat on the side of the hot tub farthest away from him, pulled up my robe, and sank my legs into the water, up to my knees. Steam rose into the air, and I shivered.

“I’m always thinking, Heiress.” Jameson’s green eyes stayed fixed on the sky. “That’s what you love about me.”

I was too cold to do anything but shed the robe and slip into the steaming water. My body objected, then relaxed into the sting of the heat. I could feel a flush rising on my face.

Jameson angled his eyes toward mine. “Any guesses what I’m thinking about?” We were separated by four or five feet, but that didn’t feel like much—not with the way he was looking at me. I knew what he wanted me to think he was thinking about.

I also knew him. “You’re thinking about the ring.”

Jameson shifted position, the top of his chest rising out of the water. “The ring,” he confirmed. “It’s the obvious next step, but getting it from

Zara could be a challenge.” “You like a challenge.”

He pushed off the side and came closer to me. “I do.”

This is Max’s fault, I thought, my heart beating a merciless rhythm against my rib cage.

“Hawthorne House has a vault.” Jameson came to a stop a foot or so away from me. “But even I don’t know its location.”

It took everything in me to focus on what he was saying—and not his body. “How is that possible?”

Jameson shrugged, the water lapping against his shoulders and chest. “Anything is possible.”

I swallowed. “I could ask to see it.” I tried my hardest to stop staring and cleared my throat. “The vault.”

“You could,” Jameson agreed, with one of those devastating Jameson Winchester Hawthorne smiles. “You’re the boss.”

I looked down. I had to, because suddenly I was very aware of just how little of my body this swimsuit covered. “We just have to find the wedding ring your grandfather left your aunt.” I tried to stay detached. “Then, somehow, that ring will help us make invisible ink a little more…”

“Visible?” Jameson suggested. He bent toward me so that he could catch my eye. For three full seconds, neither one of us could look away. “Okay, Heiress,” Jameson murmured. “What am I thinking now?”

I moved forward. Just like that, our bodies were separated by inches instead of a foot. “Not about the ring,” I said. I let my hand float to the surface of the water.

“No,” Jameson agreed, his voice low and inviting. “Not about the ring.” He lifted one of his hands to mine. We didn’t touch, not quite. He let his arm float, a hairbreadth away from my submerged skin. “The question is,” Jameson said, throwing down the gauntlet, “what are you thinking about?”

I turned my hand over and it brushed his, electric. “Not the ring.” I thought about Max telling me that it was okay to want things. Right now, there was only one thing I wanted.

One thing on my mind.

I moved again through the water. The rest of the space between us vanished. I brought my lips to Jameson’s, and he kissed me, hard. My body remembered this. I kissed him back.

It was like the hot tub was on fire, like the two of us were burning, and all I cared about was burning more. His hands found their way to the sides of my face. Mine were buried in his hair.

“This isn’t real,” I murmured as his lips began to work their way down my neck, toward the surface of the water.

“Feels real to me.” Jameson was smiling, but I didn’t let it fool me. “Nothing ever feels real to you,” I whispered, but the magical thing was

that I didn’t care. This didn’t have to be real to be right. “This… us…” I let my lips hover over his. “It doesn’t have to be anything other than what it is. No messy feelings. No obligations. No promises. No expectations.”

“Just this,” Jameson whispered, and he pulled my body tight to his.

“Just this.” It was better than riding on the back of a motorcycle going a thousand miles an hour or standing on a rooftop fifty stories tall. It wasn’t just the rush or the thrill. I felt completely, utterly in control. I felt unstoppable.

Like we were unstoppable.

And then, without warning, Jameson froze. “Don’t move,” he whispered, his breath visible in the air between his lips and mine. “Oren?” Jameson called.

I did the one thing he’d told me not to do. I moved, whirling around to face the forest, my back to him, so that I could see what he was seeing. A flash of movement. And eyes.

“I’ve got her,” Oren told Jameson, and just like that, my head of security was pulling me from the hot tub. The freezing air hit me like a truck. Adrenaline shot through me as Oren bit out an order. “Eli, go!”

The younger guard, positioned near the tree line, took off running toward the intruder. I tried to track his movements, like doing that might somehow make me safer. I’m fine. Oren’s here. I’m fine. So why couldn’t I remember how to breathe?

Oren ushered me inside.

“What was that?” I wheezed. “Who was that?” My brain clicked into gear. “Paparazzi? Did he take pictures?” The thought was horrifying.

Oren didn’t reply. On some level, I became aware that Grayson had heard the commotion. Someone wrapped a towel around me. Not Jameson. Not Grayson.

It was a full five minutes before Eli came back. “I lost him.” He was

breathing hard.

“Paparazzi?” Oren asked.

Eli’s bright blue eyes narrowed until all I could see was the amber ring around the center. “No. This was a professional.”

That statement landed like a bomb. I felt like my own ears were ringing. “A professional what?” I asked.

Oren didn’t answer. “Go pack,” he told me. “We leave at dawn.”

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