Chapter no 19

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

That night, I took the longest shower of my life. The hot-water supply was endless. The glass doors on the shower held in the steam. It was like having my own personal sauna. After drying off with plush, oversized towels, I put on my ratty pajamas and flopped down on what I was pretty sure were Egyptian cotton sheets.

I wasn’t sure how long I’d been lying there when I heard it. A voice. “Pull the candlestick.”

I was on my feet in an instant, whirling to put my back to the wall. On instinct, I grabbed the keys I’d left on the nightstand, in case I needed a weapon. My eyes scanned the room for the person who’d spoken, and came up empty.

“Pull the candlestick on the fireplace, Heiress. Unless you want me stuck back here?”

Annoyance replaced my initial fight-or-flight response. I narrowed my eyes at the stone fireplace at the back of my room. Sure enough, there was a candelabra on the mantel.

“Pretty sure this qualifies as stalking,” I told the fireplace—or, more accurately, the boy on the other side of it. Still, I couldn’t not pull the candlestick. Who could resist something like that? I wrapped my hand around the base of the candelabra. I was met with resistance, and another suggestion came from behind the fireplace.

“Don’t just pull forward. Angle it down.”

I did as I was instructed. The candelabra rotated, and then I heard a click, and the back of the fireplace separated from its floor, just by an inch. A moment later, I saw fingertips in the gap, and I watched as the back of the fireplace was lifted up and disappeared behind the mantel. Now at the back of the fireplace there was an opening. Jameson Hawthorne stepped through. He straightened, then returned the candle to its upright position, and the

entry he’d just used was slowly covered once more.

“Secret passage,” he explained unnecessarily. “The house is full of them.”

“Am I supposed to find that comforting?” I asked him. “Or terrifying?” “You tell me, Mystery Girl. Are you comforted or terrified?” He let me

sit with that for a moment. “Or is it possible that you’re intrigued?”

The first time I’d met Jameson Hawthorne, he was drunk. This time, I didn’t smell alcohol on his breath, but I wondered how much he’d slept since the reading of the will. His hair was behaving itself, but there was something wild in his glinting green eyes.

“You’re not asking about the keys.” Jameson offered me a crooked little smile. “I expected you to ask about the keys.”

I held them up. “This was your doing.”

Not a question—and he didn’t treat it like one. “It’s a little bit of a family tradition.”

“I’m not family.”

He tilted his head to one side. “Do you believe that?”

I thought about Tobias Hawthorne—about the DNA test that Zara’s husband was already running. “I don’t know.”

“It would be a shame,” Jameson commented, “if we were related.” He spared another smile for me, slow and sharp-edged. “Don’t you think?”

What was it with me and Hawthorne boys? Stop thinking about his smile. Stop looking at his lips. Just—stop.

“I think that you already have more family than you can deal with.” I crossed my arms. “I also think you’re a lot less smooth than you think are. You want something.”

I’d always been good at math. I’d always been logical. He was here, in my room, flirting for a reason.

“Everyone is going to want something from you soon, Heiress.” Jameson smiled. “The question is: How many of us want something you’re willing to give?”

Even just the sound of his voice, the way he phrased things—I could feel myself wanting to lean toward him. This was ridiculous.

“Stop calling me Heiress,” I shot back. “And if you turn answering my question into some kind of riddle, I’m calling security.”

“That’s the thing, Mystery Girl. I don’t think I’m turning anything into a

riddle. I don’t think I have to. You are a riddle, a puzzle, a game—my grandfather’s last.”

He was looking at me so intently now, I didn’t dare look away.

“Why do you think this house has so many secret passages? Why are there so many keys that don’t work in any of the locks? Every desk my grandfather ever bought has secret compartments. There’s an organ in the theater, and if you play a specific sequence of notes, it unlocks a hidden drawer. Every Saturday morning, from the time I was a kid until the night my grandfather died, he sat my brothers and me down and gave us a riddle, a puzzle, an impossible challenge—something to solve. And then he died. And then…” Jameson took a step toward me. “There was you.”


“Grayson thinks you’re some master manipulator. My aunt is convinced you must have Hawthorne blood. But I think you’re the old man’s final riddle—one last puzzle to be solved.” He took another step, bringing the two of us that much closer. “He chose you for a reason, Avery. You’re special, and I think he wanted us—wanted me—to figure out why.”

“I’m not a puzzle.” I could feel my heart beating in my neck. He was close enough now to see my pulse.

“Sure you are,” Jameson replied. “We all are. Don’t tell me that some part of you hasn’t been trying to figure us out. Grayson. Me. Maybe even Xander.”

“Is this all just a game to you?” I put my hand out to stop him from advancing farther. He took one last step, forcing my palm to his chest.

“Everything’s a game, Avery Grambs. The only thing we get to decide in this life is if we play to win.” He reached up to brush the hair from my face, and I jerked back.

“Get out,” I said lowly. “Use the normal door this time.” My entire life, no one had touched me as gently as he had a moment before.

“You’re angry,” Jameson said.

“I told you—if you want something, ask. Don’t come in here talking about how I’m special. Don’t touch my face.”

“You are special.” Jameson kept his hands to himself, but the heady expression in his eyes never shifted. “And what I want is to figure out why. Why you, Avery?” He took a step back, giving me space. “Don’t tell me you don’t want to know, too.”

I did. Of course I did.

“I’m going to leave this here.” Jameson held up an envelope. He laid it carefully on the mantel. “Read it, and then tell me this isn’t a game to be won. Tell me this isn’t a riddle.” Jameson reached for the candelabra, and as the fireplace passage opened once more, he offered a targeted, parting shot. “He left you the fortune, Avery, and all he left us is you.”

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