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Chapter no 83

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, 2)

Toby wasn’t coming. Sooner or later, my captor would realize that. And when he did… well, he couldn’t just let me go.

“What makes you think Toby’s close by?” I tried not to sound scared. I tried not to be scared. Pissed was better—much. “How is he even supposed to know that you took me? Or where to come?”

He’s not my father. He’s not coming.

“I left clues,” Sheffield said, inspecting one of his cuff links. “A little game for your father to play. I understand Hawthornes are prone to such things.”

“What kind of clues?” No answer.

“How did you send clues to him if you don’t where he is?” No response.

This was useless. Toby had told me to stop looking for him. He’d been in hiding for decades. I wasn’t his daughter.

He wasn’t coming.

That was the only thought my brain was capable of producing. It rang in my mind over and over again, until I heard footsteps. They were too heavy to be Mellie’s.

“Ah.” Sheffield Grayson inclined his head. He walked toward me, assessing me, then reached a hand out to my face and put two fingers under my chin. He angled it backward. “It’s important that you know, Avery: This isn’t personal.”

I jerked back, but it was useless. I was still bound. I wasn’t going anywhere. And the footsteps were getting closer.

Someone was coming for me. It probably just wasn’t the person he expected.

“What if you’re wrong?” I said, rushing the words. “What if the person

who found your clues wasn’t Toby? What are you going to do if that’s Jameson? Xander? Grayson?”

The sound of his son’s name—his own name—gave Sheffield Grayson only the briefest moment of pause. He closed his eyes again for a moment, then opened them, resolute and steeled against whatever unwanted thoughts my questions had raised.

“These were my nephew’s things.” Sheffield gestured to the items in the storage unit. His voice tightened. “I never could bear to part with them.”

The footsteps were almost here. Sheffield Grayson turned toward the entrance to the front of the storage unit. He withdrew a gun from his suit jacket. Finally, the footsteps stopped as a man stepped into view. He’d shaved since the last time I’d seen him, but he was still wearing layers of worn and dirty clothes.

“Harry.” That was the wrong name, and I knew it, but I couldn’t keep the word from bursting past my lips. He’s here. He came. Tears welled in my eyes, carving trails down my cheeks as the man I’d known as Harry looked past Sheffield Grayson, past the gun, toward me.

“Horrible girl.” Toby’s voice was tender. He’d called me a lot of things when we played chess—that was one of them. Especially when I won. “Let her go,” he told my captor.

Sheffield Grayson smiled, his gun held steady. “Ironic, isn’t it? My son carries the last name Hawthorne, and your daughter doesn’t. And now…” He walked slowly out of the storage unit toward Toby. “I’m the one holding the match.”

I didn’t see a match, but he had a gun. This place had been doused in accelerant. If he fired that gun—

“Get in there,” Sheffield ordered.

Toby did as he was told. “Avery isn’t my daughter.” His voice was even. I’m not. Am I? “He said he has a DNA test,” I told Toby, stalling for time, trying to think of a way—any way—out of this, before the whole

place went up in flames.

A few feet away from me, Tobias Hawthorne the Second took his eyes off Sheffield Grayson—and the gun—just for a moment. “Queen to rook five,” he told me. That was a chess move—one I’d used on him in our last game, as misdirection.

Misdirection. My brain managed to latch on to that. He’s going to

distract Sheffield. I tested the security of the bindings that held me to the chair. They were just as tight as they’d been a minute before, but a surge of adrenaline hit me, and I thought about the fact that mothers had been known to lift cars off their toddlers in crises. This chair was an antique. With enough pressure, could I break the chair’s arms?

“I told you.” Toby turned his attention back to the man with the gun. “Avery is not my daughter. I don’t know what kind of DNA test you think you got, but when Hannah got pregnant, I hadn’t seen her for years.”

I tried to focus on the chair, not his words, and worked the restraints back to the thinnest part of the wood.

“You came for the girl.” Sheffield Grayson sounded different now. Harder. “You’re here.” He lowered his voice. “You’re here, and my nephew is not.” That was clearly an accusation—and the man with the gun was judge, jury, and executioner.

“He hated you,” Toby shot back.

“He was going to be great,” Sheffield said intently. “I was going to make him great.”

Toby didn’t bat an eye. “The fire was Colin’s idea, you know. I kept saying that I wanted to burn everything down, and he dared me to put my money where my mouth was.”

“You’re a liar.”

I jerked my arms upward. Again. And again. I threw the weight of my body into it, and the right arm on the chair gave. The noise it made was loud enough that I expected Sheffield Grayson to whip his gaze toward me, but he was 100 percent focused on Toby.

“Colin dared me to do it,” Toby said again. “But it wasn’t his fault I took the dare. I was angry. And high. And the house on Hawthorne Island meant something to my father. I was going to make sure that everyone was clear of it. We were supposed to watch it burn from a distance.”

The second arm on the chair gave, and Toby raised his voice. “We didn’t count on the lightning.”

Sheffield Grayson stalked toward him. “My nephew is dead. He burned, because of you.”

This entire place had been soaked in accelerant. Deep down, I knew why. He burned, because of you.

“I am what I am,” Toby said. “If you want to kill me, I won’t fight it.

But let Avery go.”

Sheffield Grayson’s eyes—Grayson’s eyes—shifted toward me. “I am truly sorry,” he told me. “But I can’t leave any witnesses behind. Unlike some people, I don’t fancy the idea of disappearing for decades. My family deserves better than that.”

“What about Mellie?” I asked, stalling for time. “Or the man you had plant the bomb?”

“You don’t need to worry about that.” Sheffield aimed the gun at Toby.

He was still calm, still in control.

He’s going to kill us both. I was going to die here with Toby Hawthorne. My mother’s Toby. No. I stood, ready to fight, aware that there was no use in fighting—but what else was I supposed to do?

I launched myself forward. Instantly, a gun fired. The sound of it was deafening.

I expected an explosion. I expected to burn. Instead, as I watched, Sheffield Grayson crumpled to the ground. An instant later, Mellie stepped into view, her eyes wide and unseeing, holding a gun.

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