Chapter no 2

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

Rough day?” Libby asked. My sister was seven years older than me and way too empathetic for her own good—or mine.

“I’m fine,” I replied. Recounting my trip to Altman’s office would only have worried her, and until Mr. Yates graded my second test there was nothing anyone could do. I changed the subject. “Tips were good tonight.”

“How good?” Libby’s sense of style resided somewhere between punk and goth, but personality-wise, she was the kind of eternal optimist who believed a hundred-dollar-tip was always just around the corner at a hole- in-the-wall diner where most entrees cost $6.99.

I pressed a wad of crumpled singles into her hand. “Good enough to help make rent.”

Libby tried to hand the money back, but I moved out of reach before she could. “I will throw this cash at you,” she warned sternly.

I shrugged. “I’d dodge.”

“You’re impossible.” Libby grudgingly put the money away, produced a muffin tin out of nowhere, and fixed me with a look. “You will accept this muffin to make it up to me.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I went to take it from her outstretched hand, but then I looked past her to the counter and realized she’d baked more than muffins. There were also cupcakes. I felt my stomach plummet. “Oh no, Lib.”

“It’s not what you think,” Libby promised. She was an apology cupcake baker. A guilty cupcake baker. A please-don’t-be-mad-at-me cupcake baker.

“Not what I think?” I repeated softly. “So he’s not moving back in?” “It’s going to be different this time,” Libby promised. “And the

cupcakes are chocolate!” My favorite.

“It’s never going to be different,” I said, but if I’d been capable of making her believe that, she’d have believed it already.

Right on cue, Libby’s on-again, off-again boyfriend—who had a fondness for punching walls and extolling his own virtues for not punching Libby—strolled in. He snagged a cupcake off the counter and let his gaze rake over me. “Hey, jailbait.”

“Drake,” Libby said.

“I’m kidding.” Drake smiled. “You know I’m kidding, Libby-mine. You and your sister just need to learn how to take a joke.”

One minute in, and he was already making us the problem. “This is not healthy,” I told Libby. He hadn’t wanted her to take me in—and he’d never stopped punishing her for it.

“This is not your apartment,” Drake shot back. “Avery’s my sister,” Libby insisted.

“Half sister,” Drake corrected, and then he smiled again. “Joking.”

He wasn’t, but he also wasn’t wrong. Libby and I shared an absent father, but had different moms. We’d only seen each other once or twice a year growing up. No one had expected her to take custody of me two years earlier. She was young. She was barely scraping by. But she was Libby. Loving people was what she did.

“If Drake’s staying here,” I told her quietly, “then I’m not.”

Libby picked up a cupcake and cradled it in her hands. “I’m doing the best I can, Avery.”

She was a people pleaser. Drake liked putting her in the middle. He used me to hurt her.

I couldn’t just wait around for the day he stopped punching walls. “If you need me,” I told Libby, “I’ll be living in my car.”

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