Chapter no 26

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

The archive looked more like a university library than one that belonged in a high school. The room was full of archways and stained glass. Countless shelves were brimming with books of every kind, and at the center of the room, there were a dozen rectangular tables—state of the art, with lights built into the tables and enormous magnifying glasses attached to the sides.

All the tables were empty except for one. A girl sat with her back to me. She had auburn hair, a darker red than I’d ever seen on a person. I sat down several tables away from her, facing the door. The room was silent except for the sound of the other girl turning the pages of the book she was reading.

I withdrew Jameson’s letter and my own from my bag. Tattersall. I dragged my finger over the middle name with which Tobias Hawthorne had signed Jameson’s missive, then looked at the initials scrawled on mine. The handwriting matched. Something nagged at me, and it took me a moment to realize what it was. He used the middle name in the will, too. What if that was the catch here? What if that was all it took to invalidate the terms?

I texted Alisa. The reply came immediately: Legal name change, years ago. We’re good.

Xander had said that his grandfather was born Tobias Hawthorne, no middle name. Why tell me that at all? Deeply doubting that I would ever understand anyone with the last name Hawthorne, I reached for the magnifying glass attached to the table. It was the size of my hand. I placed the two letters side by side beneath it and turned on the lights built into the table.

Chalk one up for private schools.

The paper was thick enough that the light didn’t shine through, but the magnifying glass made quick work of blowing the writing up ten times its normal size. I adjusted the glass, bringing the signature on Jameson’s letter

into focus. I could see details now in Tobias Hawthorne’s handwriting that I hadn’t been able to see before. A slight hook on his r’s. Asymmetry on his capital T’s. And there, in his middle name, was a noticeable space, twice that between any two other letters. Magnified, that space made the name appear as two words.

Tatters all. Tatters, all. “As in, he left them all in tatters?” I wondered out loud. It was a leap, but it didn’t feel like much of one, not when Jameson had been so sure that there was more to this letter than met the eyes. Not when Xander had made it a point to tell me about his grandfather’s lack of a middle name. If Tobias Hawthorne had legally changed his name to add in Tattersall, that strongly suggested he’d chosen the name himself. To what end?

I looked up, suddenly remembering that I wasn’t alone in this room, but the girl with the dark red hair was gone. I shot off another text to Alisa: When did TH change his name?

Did the name change correspond to the moment he’d decided to leave his family in the billionaire version of tatters, to leave everything to me?

A text came through a moment later, but it wasn’t from Alisa. It was from Jameson. I had no idea how he’d even gotten the number—for this new phone or my last.

I see it now, Mystery Girl. Do you?

I looked around, feeling like he might be watching me from the wings, but by all indications, I was alone.

The middle name? I typed back.

No. I waited, and a second text came through a full minute later. The sign-off.

My gaze went to the end of Jameson’s letter. Right before the signature, there were two words: Don’t judge.

Don’t judge the Hawthorne patriarch for dying without ever telling his family he was sick? Don’t judge the games he was playing from beyond the grave? Don’t judge the way he had pulled the rug out from underneath his daughters and grandsons?

I looked back at Jameson’s text, then to the letter, and read it again from the beginning. 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.

I imagined being Jameson, getting this letter—wanting answers and being given platitudes instead. Proverbs. My brain supplied the alternate term, and my eyes darted back down to the sign-off. Jameson had thought we were looking for a wordplay or a code. Every line in this letter, barring the proper names, was a proverb or a slight variation thereon.

Every line except one.

Don’t judge. I’d missed most of my old English teacher’s lecture on proverbs, but there was only one I could think of that started with those two words.

Does “Don’t judge a book by its cover” mean anything to you? I asked Jameson.

His reply was immediate. Very good, Heiress. Then, a moment later: It sure as hell does.

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