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Chapter no 11

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

bolted. The next thing I knew, I was outside. The front door of Hawthorne House slammed behind me. Cool air hit my face. I was almost sure I was breathing, but my entire body felt distant and numb. Was this what shock felt like?

“Avery!” Libby burst out of the house after me. “Are you okay?” She studied me, concerned. “Also: Are you insane? When someone gives you money, you don’t try to give it back!”

You do,” I pointed out, the roar in my brain so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think. “Every time I try to give you my tips.”

“We’re not talking tips here!” Libby’s blue hair was falling out of her ponytail. “We’re talking millions.”

Billions, I corrected silently, but my mouth flat-out refused to say the word.

“Ave.” Libby put a hand on my shoulder. “Think about what this means. You’ll never have to worry about money again. You can buy whatever you want, do whatever you want. Those postcards you kept of your mom’s?” She leaned forward, touching her forehead against mine. “You can go anywhere. Imagine the possibilities.”

I did, even though this felt like a cruel joke, like the universe’s way of tricking me into wanting things that girls like me were never meant to—

The massive front door of Hawthorne House slammed open. I jumped back, and Nash Hawthorne stepped out. Even wearing a suit, he looked every inch the cowboy, ready to meet a rival at high noon.

I braced myself. Billions. Wars had been fought over less.

“Relax, kid.” Nash’s Texas drawl was slow and smooth, like whiskey. “I don’t want the money. Never have. Far as I’m concerned, this is the universe having a bit of fun with folks who probably deserve it.”

The oldest Hawthorne brother’s gaze drifted from me to Libby. He was

tall, muscular, and suntanned. She was tiny and slight, her pale skin standing in stark contrast to her dark lipstick and neon hair. The two of them looked like they didn’t belong within ten feet of each other, and yet, there he was, slow-smiling at her.

“You take care, darlin’,” Nash told my sister. He ambled toward his motorcycle, then put on his helmet, and a moment later, he was gone.

Libby stared after the motorcycle. “I take back what I said about Grayson. Maybe he’s God.”

Right now, we had bigger issues than which of the Hawthorne brothers was divine. “We can’t stay here, Libby. I doubt the rest of the family is as blasé about the will as Nash is. We need to go.”

“I’m going with you,” a deep voice said. I turned. John Oren stood next to the front door. I hadn’t heard him open it.

“I don’t need security,” I told him. “I just need to get out of here.” “You’ll need security for the rest of your life.” He was so matter-of-fact,

I couldn’t even begin to argue. “But look on the bright side.…” He nodded to the car that had picked us up at the airport. “I also drive.”

 

 

I asked Oren to take us to a motel. Instead, he drove us to the fanciest hotel I’d ever seen, and he must have taken the scenic route, because Alisa Ortega was waiting for us in the lobby.

“I’ve had a chance to read the will in full.” Apparently, that was her version of hello. “I brought a copy for you. I suggest we retire to your rooms and go over the details.”

“Our rooms?” I repeated. The doormen were wearing tuxedos. There were six chandeliers in the lobby. Nearby, a woman was playing a five-foot- tall harp. “We can’t afford rooms here.”

Alisa gave me an almost pitying look. “Oh, honey,” she said, then recovered her professionalism. “You own this hotel.”

I… what? Libby and I were getting “who let the rabble in?” looks from other patrons just standing in the lobby. I could not possibly own this hotel.

“Besides which,” Alisa continued, “the will is now in probate. It may be some time before the money and properties are out of escrow, but in the meantime, McNamara, Ortega, and Jones will be picking up the tab for

anything you need.”

Libby frowned, crinkling her brow. “Is that a thing that law firms do?” “You have probably gathered that Mr. Hawthorne was one of our most

important clients,” Alisa said delicately. “It would be more precise to say that he was our only client. And now…”

“Now,” I said, the truth sinking in, “that client is me.”

 

 

It took me almost an hour to read and reread and re-reread the will. Tobias Hawthorne had put only one condition on my inheritance.

“You’re to live in Hawthorne House for one year, commencing no more than three days from now.” Alisa had made that point at least twice already, but I couldn’t get my brain to accept it.

“The only string attached to my inheriting billions of dollars is that I

must move into a mansion.” “Correct.”

“A mansion where a large number of the people who were expecting to inherit this money still live. And I can’t kick them out.”

“Barring extraordinary circumstances, also correct. If it’s any consolation, it is a very large house.”

“And if I refuse?” I asked. “Or if the Hawthorne family has me killed?” “No one is going to have you killed,” Alisa said calmly.

“I know you grew up around these people and everything,” Libby told Alisa, trying to be diplomatic, “but they are totally, one hundred percent going to go all Lizzie Borden on my sister.”

“Really would prefer not to be ax-murdered,” I emphasized.

“Risk assessment: low,” Oren rumbled. “At least insofar as axes are concerned.”

It took me a second to figure out that he was joking. “This is serious!” “Believe me,” he returned, “I know. But I also know the Hawthorne

family. The boys would never harm a woman, and the women will come for you in the courtroom, no axes involved.”

“Besides,” Alisa added, “in the state of Texas, if an heir dies while a will is in probate, the inheritance doesn’t revert to the original estate—it becomes part of the heir’s estate.”

I have an estate? I thought dully. “And if I refuse to move in with them?” I asked again, a giant ball in my throat.

“She’s not going to refuse.” Libby shot laser eyes in my direction.

“If you fail to move into Hawthorne House in three days’ time,” Alisa told me, “your portion of the estate will be dispersed to charity.”

“Not to Tobias Hawthorne’s family?” I asked.

“No.” Alisa’s neutral mask slipped slightly. She’d known the Hawthornes for years. She might work for me now, but she couldn’t be happy about that.

Could she?

“Your father wrote the will, right?” I said, trying to wrap my head around the insane situation I was in.

“In consultation with the other partners at the firm,” Alisa confirmed. “Did he tell you…” I tried to find a better way to phrase what I wanted

to ask, then gave up. “Did he tell you why?”

Why had Tobias Hawthorne disinherited his family? Why leave everything to me?

“I don’t think my father knows why,” Alisa said. She peered at me, the neutral mask slipping once more. “Do you?”

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