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Chapter no 5

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, 2)

Monday meant school. Private school. A private school with seemingly endless resources and “modular scheduling,” which left me with random pockets of free time scattered throughout the day. I used that time to dig up everything I could about Toby Hawthorne.

I already knew the basics: He was the youngest of Tobias Hawthorne’s three children and, by most accounts, the favorite. At the age of nineteen, he and some friends had taken a trip to a private island the Hawthorne family owned off the coast of Oregon. There was a deadly fire and a horrible storm, and his body was never recovered.

The tragedy had made the news, and sifting through articles gave me a few more details about what had happened. Four people had gone out to Hawthorne Island. None had made it back alive. Three bodies had been recovered. Toby’s was presumed lost to the ocean storm.

I found out what I could about the other victims. Two of them were basically Toby clones: prep school boys. Heirs. The third was a girl, Kaylie Rooney. From what I gathered, she was a local, a troubled teen from a small fishing village on the mainland. Several articles mentioned that she had a criminal record—a sealed juvenile record. It took me longer to find a source

—though not necessarily a reputable one—that claimed that Kaylie Rooney’s criminal record included drugs, assault, and arson.

She started the fire. That was the story the press ran with, without coming right out and saying the words. Three promising young men, one troubled young woman. A party that spun out of control. Everything, engulfed in flames. Kaylie was the one the press blamed—sometimes between the lines, sometimes explicitly. The boys were lionized and eulogized and held up as shining beacons in their communities. Colin Anders Wright. David Golding. Tobias Hawthorne II. So much brilliance, so much potential, gone too soon.

But Kaylie Rooney? She was trouble.

My phone buzzed, and I glanced down at the screen. A text—from Jameson: I have a lead.

Jameson was a senior at Heights Country Day. He was somewhere on this magnificent campus. What kind of lead? I thought, but I resisted giving him the satisfaction of texting back. Eventually, my phone informed me that he was typing.

Tell me what you know, I thought.

Then the text finally came through. Wanna raise the stakes?

 

 

The Heights Country Day refectory didn’t look like a high school cafeteria. Long wooden tables stretched the length of the room. Portraits hung on the walls. The ceilings were high and arching, and the windows were made of stained glass. As I grabbed my food, I scanned the room reflexively for Jameson—and found another Hawthorne brother instead.

Xander Hawthorne was sitting at a dining table, staring intently at a contraption he’d set on its surface. The gizmo looked a bit like a Rubik’s Cube, but elongated, with tiles that could swivel and fold out in any direction. I suspected it was a Xander Hawthorne original. He’d told me once that he was the brother most apt to be distracted by complex machinery—and scones.

That got me thinking as I watched him fidget three tiles back and forth in his fingers. When his brothers had been off playing their grandfather’s games, Xander had often ended up sharing his scones with the old man. Did they ever talk about Toby? There was only one way to find out. I crossed the room to sit next to Xander, but he was so absorbed in thought that he didn’t even notice me. Back and forth, back and forth, he twisted the tiles.

“Xander?”

He turned toward me and blinked. “Avery! What a pleasant and not objectively unexpected surprise!” His right hand meandered to the far side of the contraption and a notebook that sat there. He snapped it closed.

I took that to mean Xander Hawthorne was up to something. Then again, so was I. “Can I ask you something?”

“That depends,” Xander replied. “Are you planning to share those baked goods?”

I looked down at the croissant and cookie on my tray and slid the latter his way. “What do you know about your uncle Toby?”

“Why do you want to know?” Xander took a bite of the cookie and frowned. “Does this have craisins in it? What kind of monster mixes butterscotch chips and craisins?”

“I was just curious,” I said.

“You know what they say about curiosity,” Xander warned me happily, taking another gargantuan bite of the cookie. “Curiosity killed the—Bex!” Xander gulped down the bite he’d just taken, his face lighting up.

I followed his gaze to Rebecca Laughlin, who was standing behind me, holding a lunch tray and looking the way she always did: like some kind of princess, plucked from a fairy tale. Hair as red as rubies. Impossibly wide- set eyes.

Guilty as sin.

As if she could hear my thoughts, Rebecca quickly averted her eyes. I could feel her trying not to look at me. “I thought you might need help,” she told Xander hesitantly, “with the—”

“The thing!” Xander leaned forward and cut her off.

I narrowed my eyes and turned my head back toward the youngest Hawthorne—and the notebook he’d flipped closed the moment he’d seen me. “What thing?” I asked suspiciously.

“I should go,” Rebecca said behind me.

“You should sit and listen to me complain about craisins,” Xander corrected.

After a long moment, Rebecca sat, leaving a single empty chair between us. Her clear, green eyes drifted toward mine. “Avery.” She looked down again. “I owe you an apology.”

The last time Rebecca and I had spoken, she’d confessed to covering for Skye Hawthorne’s role in my attempted murder.

“I’m not sure I want one,” I said, an edge creeping into my voice. On an intellectual level, I understood that Rebecca had spent her whole life living in her sister’s shadow, that Emily’s death had wrecked her, that she’d felt some kind of sick responsibility to her dead sister to say nothing about Skye’s plot against me. But on a more visceral level: I could have died.

“You’re not still holding a little grudge about all of that, are you?” Thea Calligaris asked, claiming the seat that Rebecca had left open.

“Little grudge?” I repeated. The last time I’d been this close to Thea, she had admitted to setting me up to attend my debut in Texas society dressed like a dead girl. “You play mind games. And Rebecca almost got me killed!”

“What can I say?” Thea let her fingertips brush Rebecca’s. “We’re complicated girls.”

There was something deliberate about those words, that brush of skin. Rebecca looked at Thea, looked at their hands—and then curled her fingers toward her palm and placed her hand in her lap.

Thea kept her eyes on Rebecca’s for three long seconds, then turned back to me. “Besides,” she said pertly, “I thought this was supposed to be a private lunch.”

Private. Just Rebecca and Thea and Xander, the three of whom—last I’d checked—were barely on speaking terms with one another for complicated reasons involving, as Xander liked to say, star-crossed love, fake dating, and tragedy.

“What am I missing here?” I asked Xander. The notebook. The way he’d dodged my question about Toby. The “thing” Rebecca had come to help him with. And now Thea.

Xander saved himself from having to answer by jamming the rest of the cookie into his mouth.

“Well?” I prompted as he chewed.

“Emily’s birthday is on Friday,” Rebecca said suddenly. Her voice was quiet, but what she’d just said sucked the oxygen from the room.

“There’s a memorial fundraiser,” Thea added, staring me down. “Xander, Rebecca, and I scheduled this private lunch to iron out some plans.”

I wasn’t sure I believed her, but either way, that was clearly my cue to leave.

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