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Chapter no 13

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

Sorry? Sorry for what? The question was still ringing in my mind the next morning. For once in my life, I’d slept late. I found Oren and Alisa in our suite’s kitchen talking softly.

Too softly for me to hear.

“Avery.” Oren noticed me first. I wondered if he’d told Alisa about Grayson. “There are some security protocols I’d like to go over with you.”

Like not opening doors to Grayson Hawthorne?

“You’re a target now,” Alisa told me crisply.

Given that she’d been so insistent that the Hawthornes weren’t a threat, I had to ask: “A target for what?”

“Paparazzi, of course. The firm is keeping a lid on the story for the time being, but that won’t last, and there are other concerns.”

“Kidnapping.” Oren didn’t put any particular emphasis on that word. “Stalking. People will make threats—they always do. You’re young, and you’re female, and that will make it worse. With your sister’s permission, I’ll arrange a detail for her as well, as soon as she gets back.”

Kidnapping. Stalking. Threats. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the words. “Where is Libby?” I asked, since he’d made reference to her coming back.

“On a plane,” Alisa answered. “Specifically, your plane.” “I have a plane?” I was never going to get used to this.

“You have several,” Alisa told me. “And a helicopter, I believe, but that’s neither here nor there. Your sister is en route to retrieve your things, as well as her own. Given the deadline for your move into Hawthorne House—and the stakes—we thought it best that you remain here. Ideally, we’ll have you moved in no later than tonight.”

“The second this news gets out,” Oren said seriously, “you will be on the cover of every newspaper. You’ll be the leading story on every newscast,

the number one trending topic on all social media. To some people, you’ll be Cinderella. To others, Marie Antoinette.”

Some people would want to be me. Some people would hate me to the depths of their souls. For the first time, I noticed the gun holstered to Oren’s side.

“It’s best you sit tight,” Oren said evenly. “Your sister should be back tonight.”

 

 

For the rest of the morning, Alisa and I played what I had mentally termed The Uprooting Avery’s Life In An Instant game. I quit my job. Alisa took care of withdrawing me from school.

“What about my car?” I asked.

“Oren will be driving you for the foreseeable future, but we can have your vehicle shipped, if you would like,” Alisa offered. “Or you can pick out a new car for personal use.”

For all the emphasis she put on that, you would have thought she was talking about buying gum at the supermarket.

“Do you prefer sedans or SUVs?” she queried, holding her phone in a way that suggested she was fully capable of ordering a car with a mere click of a button. “Any color preference?”

“You’re going to have to excuse me for a second,” I told her. I ducked back into my bedroom. The bed was piled ridiculously high with pillows. I climbed up on the bed, let myself fall back on the mountain of pillows, and pulled out my phone.

Texting, calling, and DM-ing Max all led to the same result: nothing. She had definitely had her phone confiscated—and possibly her laptop, which meant that she couldn’t advise me on the appropriate response when one’s lawyer started talking about ordering a car like it was a foxing pizza.

This is unreal. Less that twenty-four hours earlier, I’d been sleeping in a parking lot. The closest I’d come to splurging was the occasional breakfast sandwich.

Breakfast sandwich, I thought. Harry. I sat up in bed. “Alisa?” I called. “If I didn’t want a new car, if I wanted to spend that money on something else—could I?”

 

 

Bankrolling a place for Harry to stay—and getting him to accept it— wouldn’t be easy, but Alisa told me to consider it handled. That was the world I lived in now. All I had to do was speak, and it was handled.

This wouldn’t last. It couldn’t. Sooner or later, someone would figure out that this was some kind of screwup. So I might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

That was the number one thought on my mind when we went to pick up Libby. As my sister stepped out of my private jet. I wondered if Alisa could get her into the Sorbonne. Or buy her a little cupcake shop. Or—

“Libby.” Every thought in my head came screeching to a halt the moment I saw her face. Her right eye was bruised and swollen nearly shut.

Libby swallowed but didn’t avert her eyes. “If you say ‘I told you so,’ I will make butterscotch cupcakes and guilt you into eating them every day.”

“Is there a problem I should know about?” Alisa asked Libby, her voice deceptively calm as she eyed the bruise.

“Avery hates butterscotch,” Libby said, like that was the problem. “Alisa,” I gritted out, “does your law firm have a hit man on retainer?” “No.” Alisa kept her tone strictly professional. “But I’m very

resourceful. I could make some inquiries.”

“I legitimately cannot tell if you are joking,” Libby said, and then she turned to me. “I don’t want to talk about it. And I’m fine.”

“But—”

“I’m fine.”

I managed to keep my mouth shut, and all of us managed to make it back to the hotel. The plan was to finish up a few final arrangements and leave immediately for Hawthorne House.

Things did not go exactly according to plan.

“We have a problem.” Oren didn’t sound overly bothered, but Alisa immediately put down her phone. Oren nodded to our suite’s balcony. Alisa stepped outside, looked down, and swore.

I pushed past Oren and went out on the balcony to see what was going on. Down below, outside the hotel’s entrance, hotel security guards were struggling with what appeared to be a mob. It wasn’t until a flash went off that I realized what that mob was.

Paparazzi.

And just like that, every camera was pointed up at the balcony. At me.

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