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Chapter no 9

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, 2)

That night, I lay in bed, thinking about the poem and staring at the cipher disk. I turned the smaller wheel, watching as it generated code after code. What exactly had Toby used this for? Answers didn’t come, but eventually sleep did. I woke the next morning with “A Poison Tree” still on my mind. I was angry with my friend: / I told my wrath, my wrath did end. / I was angry with my foe: / I told it not, my wrath did grow.

A knock on my door interrupted that thought. It was Libby. She was still dressed in her pajamas—skull print, with bows.

“Everything okay?” I asked.

“Just making sure you’re up and getting ready for school.”

I gave her a look. Libby had never, in the history of her legal guardianship of me, gotten me up for school. “Really?”

She hesitated, her right index finger picking at the dark nail polish on her left, and then the floodgates broke. “You know Dad didn’t mean to give that interview, right? Ave, he had no idea the person he was talking to was a reporter.”

Ricky had gotten back in touch with Libby around the time that news of my inheritance hit the press. If she wanted to give him another chance, that was her business, but he didn’t get to use her as an intermediary with me.

“He wants money,” I said flatly. “And I’m not giving him any.” “I’m not an idiot, Avery. And I’m not defending him.”

She was absolutely defending him, but I didn’t have the heart to say that. “I should get ready for school.”

 

 

My morning routine took five times longer now than it had before I had a

team of stylists, a media consultant, and a “look.” By the time I finished applying eight different concoctions to my face and at least half that many to my hair, sitting down to breakfast was out of the question. Running late, I rushed into the kitchen—not to be confused with the chef’s kitchen—to pick up a banana and was greeted with the sound of an oven door slamming closed.

Mrs. Laughlin straightened and wiped her hands on her apron. Soft brown eyes narrowed at me. “Can I help you with something?”

“Banana?” I said. Something about the expression on her face made it difficult for me to form a full sentence. I still wasn’t used to having a staff. “I mean, could I get a banana, please?”

“Too good for breakfast?” Mrs. Laughlin replied stiffly. “No,” I said quickly. “It’s just, I’m running late, and—”

“No matter.” Mrs. Laughlin checked the contents of another oven. From what I’d been told, the Laughlins had run the estate for decades. They hadn’t been thrilled when I inherited, but everything continued to run like clockwork. “Take what you like.” Mrs. Laughlin briskly nodded to a fruit bowl. “Your type always does.”

My type? I bit back the urge to throw out a retort. Clearly, I’d misstepped somehow. And just as clearly, I didn’t want to be on her bad side. “If this is about what happened with Mr. Laughlin yesterday…,” I said, flashing back to the way her husband had thrown us out of Toby’s wing.

“You stay away from Mr. Laughlin.” Mrs. Laughlin wiped her hands against her apron again, harder this time. “It’s bad enough, what you’ve done to poor Nan.”

Nan? My answer came with my next breath. The boys’ great- grandmother had been the one to show me a picture of Toby. She’d been there when I realized I knew him. “Nan told you,” I said slowly. “About Toby.” I thought about Grayson’s warning, about the importance of this secret staying a secret.

Xander knew—and now Mrs. Laughlin. Quite possibly her husband, too. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” Mrs. Laughlin said fiercely. “Playing with an old woman’s feelings like that. And dragging the boys into

whatever you were doing in Toby’s wing? It’s cruel is what it is.”

“Cruel?” I repeated, and that was when I realized: She thought I was

lying.

“Toby’s dead,” Mrs. Laughlin said, her voice tight. “He’s gone, and the whole House mourned him. I loved that boy like he was my own.” She closed her eyes. “And the thought of you tormenting Nan, telling that poor woman that he’s alive… defiling his things…” Mrs. Laughlin forced her eyes open. “Hasn’t this family suffered enough without you making up something like this?”

“I’m not lying,” I said, feeling sick to my stomach. “I wouldn’t do that.” Mrs. Laughlin pursed her lips. I could see her biting back whatever she wanted to say. Instead, she stiffly handed me a banana. “You should go to

school.”

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