Chapter no 10

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

This is not happening.

This cannot be happening. I’m dreaming.

I’m delusional.

“He left everything to her?” Skye’s voice was shrill enough to break through my stupor. “Why?” Gone was the woman who’d mused about my astrological sign and regaled me with tales of her sons and lovers. This Skye looked like she could kill someone. Literally.

“Who the hell is she?” Zara’s voice was knife-edged and clear as a bell. “There must be some mistake.” Grayson spoke like a person used to

dealing with mistakes. Bribe, threaten, buy out, I thought. What would the “heir apparent” do to me? This is not happening. I felt that with every beat of my heart, every breath in, every breath out. This cannot be happening.

“He’s right.” My words came out in a whisper, lost to voices being raised all around me. I tried again, louder. “Grayson’s right.” Heads started turning in my direction. “There must be some mistake.” My voice was hoarse. I felt like I’d just jumped out of a plane. Like I was skydiving and waiting for my chute to open.

This is not real. It can’t be.

“Avery.” Libby nudged me in the ribs, clearly telegraphing that I should shut up and stop talking about mistakes.

But there was no way. There had to have been some kind of mix-up. A man I’d never met hadn’t just left me a multi-billion-dollar fortune. Things like that didn’t happen, period.

“You see?” Skye latched on to what I’d said. “Even Ava agrees this is ridiculous.”

This time, I was pretty sure she’d gotten my name wrong on purpose.

The remainder of my estate, including all properties, monetary assets, and

worldly possessions not otherwise specified, I leave to Avery Kylie Grambs.

Skye Hawthorne knew my name now.

They all did.

“I assure you, there is no mistake.” Mr. Ortega met my gaze, then turned his attention to the others. “And I assure the rest of you, Tobias Hawthorne’s last will and testament is utterly unbreakable. Since the majority of the remaining details concern only Avery, we’ll cease with the dramatics. But let me make one thing very clear: Per the terms of the will, any heir who challenges Avery’s inheritance will forfeit their share of the estate entirely.”

Avery’s inheritance. I felt dizzy, almost nauseous. It was like someone had snapped their fingers and rewritten the laws of physics, like the coefficient of gravity had changed, and my body was ill-suited to coping. The world was spinning off its axis.

“No will is that ironclad,” Zara’s husband said, his voice acidic. “Not when there’s this kind of money at stake.”

“Spoken,” Nash Hawthorne interjected, “like someone who didn’t really know the old man.”

“Traps upon traps,” Jameson murmured. “And riddles upon riddles.” I could feel his dark green eyes on mine.

“I think you should leave,” Grayson told me curtly. Not a request. An order.

“Technically…” Alisa Ortega sounded like she’d just swallowed arsenic. “It’s her house.”

Clearly, she really hadn’t known what was in the will. She’d been kept in the dark, just like the family. How could Tobias Hawthorne blindside them like this? What kind of person does that to their own flesh and blood?

“I don’t understand,” I said out loud, dizzy and numb, because none of this made any kind of sense.

“My daughter is correct.” Mr. Ortega kept his tone neutral. “You own it all, Ms. Grambs. Not just the fortune, but all of Mr. Hawthorne’s properties, including Hawthorne House. Per the terms of your inheritance, which I will gladly go over with you, the current occupants have been granted tenancy unless—and until—they give you cause for removal.” He let those words hang in the air. “Under no circumstances,” he continued gravely, his words rife with warning, “can those tenants attempt to remove you.”

The room was suddenly silent and still. They’re going to kill me. Someone in this room is actually going to kill me. The man I’d pegged as former military strode to stand between me and Tobias Hawthorne’s family. He said nothing, crossing his arms over his chest, keeping me behind him and the rest of them in his sight.

“Oren!” Zara sounded shocked. “You work for this family.”

“I worked for Mr. Hawthorne.” John Oren paused and held up a piece of paper. It took me a moment to realize that it was his letter. “It was his last request that I continue in the employment of Ms. Avery Kylie Grambs.” He glanced at me. “Security. You’ll need it.”

“And not just to protect you from us!” Xander added to my left. “Take a step back, please,” Oren ordered.

Xander held his hands up. “Peace,” he declared. “I make dire predictions in peace!”

“Xan’s right.” Jameson smiled, like this was all a game. “The entire world’s going to want a piece of you, Mystery Girl. This has story of the century written all over it.”

Story of the century. My brain kicked back into gear because there was every indication that this wasn’t a joke. I wasn’t delusional. I wasn’t dreaming.

I was an heiress.

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