Chapter no 20

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

Long after Jameson had disappeared into darkness and the fireplace door had closed, I stood there, staring. Was this the only secret passage into my room? In a house like this one, how could I ever really know that I was alone?

Eventually, I moved to take the envelope Jameson had left on the mantel, even though everything in me rebelled against what he had said. I wasn’t a puzzle. I was just a girl.

I turned the envelope over and saw Jameson’s name scrawled across the front. This is his letter, I realized. The one he was given at the reading of the will. I still had no idea what to make of my own letter, no idea what Tobias Hawthorne was apologizing for. Maybe Jameson’s letter would clarify something.

I opened it and read. The message was longer than mine—and made even less sense.


Better the devil you know than the one you don’t—or is it? Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. All that glitters is not gold. Nothing is certain but death and taxes. There but for the grace of God go I.

Don’t judge.

—Tobias Tattersall Hawthorne



By the next morning, I’d memorized Jameson’s letter. It sounded like it had been written by someone who hadn’t slept in days—manic, rattling off one platitude after another. But the longer the words marinated in the back of

my brain, the more I began to consider the possibility that Jameson might be right.

There’s something there, in the letters. In Jameson’s. In mine. An answer

—or at least a clue.

Rolling out of my massive bed, I went to unplug my phones, plural, from their chargers and discovered that my old phone had powered down. With some hefty pushes on the power button and a little bit of luck, I managed to cajole it back on. I didn’t know how I could even begin to explain the past twenty-four hours to Max, but I needed to talk to someone.

I needed a reality check.

What I got was more than a hundred missed calls and texts. Suddenly, the reason Alisa had given me a new phone was clear. People I hadn’t spoken to in years were messaging me. People who had spent their lives ignoring me clamored for my attention. Coworkers. Classmates. Even teachers. I had no idea how half of them had gotten my number. I grabbed my new phone, went online, and discovered that my email and social media accounts were even worse.

I had thousands of messages—most of them from strangers. To some people, you’ll be Cinderella. To others, Marie Antoinette. My stomach muscles tightened. I set both phones down and stood up, my hand going over my mouth. I should have seen this coming. It shouldn’t have been a shock to my system at all. But I wasn’t ready.

How could a person be ready for this?

“Avery?” A voice called into my room—female and not Libby. “Alisa?” I double-checked before opening my bedroom door.

“You missed breakfast,” came the reply. Brisk, businesslike—definitely Alisa.

I opened the door.

“Mrs. Laughlin wasn’t sure what you like, so she made a bit of everything,” Alisa told me. A woman I didn’t recognize—early twenties, maybe—followed her into the room carrying a tray. She deposited it on my nightstand, cut a narrowed-eyed glance my way, then left without a word.

“I thought the staff only came in as needed,” I said, turning to Alisa once the door was closed.

Alisa blew out a long breath. “The staff,” she said, “is very, very loyal and extremely concerned right now. That”—Alisa nodded to the door

—“was one of the newer hires. She’s one of Nash’s.”

I narrowed my eyes. “What do you mean, she’s one of Nash’s?”

Alisa’s composure never faltered. “Nash is a bit of a nomad. He leaves. He wanders. He finds some hole-in-the-wall place to bartend for a while, and then, like a moth to the flame, he comes back—usually with one or two hopeless souls in tow. As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s plenty of work to be had at Hawthorne House, and Mr. Hawthorne had a habit of putting Nash’s lost souls to work.”

“And the girl who was just in here?” I asked.

“She’s been here about a year.” Alisa’s tone gave nothing away. “She’d die for Nash. Most of them would.”

“Are she and Nash…” I wasn’t sure how to phrase this. “Involved?” “No!” Alisa said sharply. She took a deep breath and continued. “Nash

would never let anything happen with someone he had any kind of power over. He has his flaws—a savior complex among them—but he’s not like that.”

I couldn’t take the elephant in the room any longer, so I dragged it into the light. “He’s your ex.”

Alisa’s chin rose. “We were engaged for a time,” she allowed. “We were young. There were issues. But I assure you, I have no conflict of interest when it comes to your representation.”

Engaged? I had to actively try to keep my jaw from dropping. My lawyer had planned to marry a Hawthorne, and she hadn’t thought that merited a mention?

“If you’d prefer,” Alisa said stiffly, “I can arrange for someone else from the firm to work as your liaison.”

I forced myself to stop gawking at her and tried to process the situation. Alisa had been nothing but professional and seemed almost frighteningly good at her job. Plus, given the whole broken engagement thing, she had a reason not to be loyal to the Hawthornes.

“It’s okay,” I said. “I don’t need a new liaison.”

That got a very small smile out of her. “I’ve taken the liberty of enrolling you at Heights Country Day.” Alisa moved to the next item on her to-do list with merciless efficiency. “It’s the school that Xander and Jameson attend. Grayson graduated last year. I’d hoped to have you enrolled and at least partially acclimated before news of your inheritance

broke in the press, but we’ll deal with the hand we’ve been dealt.” She gave me a look. “You’re the Hawthorne heiress, and you’re not a Hawthorne. That’s going to draw attention, even at a place like Country Day, where you will be far from the only one with means.”

Means, I thought. How many ways did rich people have of not saying the word rich?

“I’m pretty sure I can handle a bunch of prep school kids,” I said, even though I wasn’t sure of that. At all.

Alisa caught sight of my phones. She squatted down and plucked my old phone from the ground. “I’ll dispose of this for you.”

She didn’t even have to look at the screen to realize what had happened. What was still happening, if the constant, muted buzzing of the phone was any indication.

“Wait,” I told her. I grabbed the phone, ignored the messages, and went for Max’s number. I transferred it to my new phone.

“I suggest you strictly regulate who has access to your new number,” Alisa told me. “This isn’t going to die down anytime soon.”

“This,” I repeated. The media attention. Strangers sending me messages.

People who’d never cared about me deciding we were best friends.

“The students at Country Day will have a bit more discretion,” Alisa told me, “but you need to be prepared. As awful as it sounds, money is power, and power is magnetic. You’re not the person you were two days ago.”

I wanted to argue that point, but instead, my mind cycled back to Tobias Hawthorne’s letter to Jameson, his words echoing in my mind. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

You'll Also Like