Chapter no 27

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

We could be making something out of nothing,” I said hours later. Jameson and I stood in the Hawthorne House library, looking up at the shelves circling the room, filled with books from eighteen-foot ceiling to floor.

“Hawthorne-born or Hawthorne-made, there’s always something to be played.” Jameson spoke with a singsong rhythm, like a child skipping rope. But when he brought his gaze down from the shelves to me, there was nothing childlike in his expression. “Everything is something in Hawthorne House.”

Everything, I thought. And everyone.

“Do you know how many times in my life one of my grandfather’s puzzles has sent me to this room?” Jameson turned slowly in a circle. “He’s probably rolling in his grave that it took me this long to see it.”

“What do you think we’re looking for?” I asked.

“What do you think we’re looking for, Heiress?” Jameson had a way of making everything sound like it was either a challenge or an invitation.

Or both.

Focus, I told myself. I was here because I wanted answers at least as much as the boy beside me did. “If the clue is a book by its cover,” I said, turning the riddle over in my mind “then I’d guess that we’re looking for either a book or a cover—or maybe a mismatch between the two?”

“A book that doesn’t match its cover?” Jameson’s expression gave no hint of what he thought of that suggestion.

“I could be wrong.”

Jameson’s lips twisted—not quite a smile, not quite a smirk. “Everyone is a little wrong sometimes, Heiress.”

An invitation—and a challenge. I had no intention of being a little wrong—not with him. The sooner my body remembered that, the better. I

physically turned away from Jameson to do a three-sixty, slowly taking in the scope of the room. Just looking up at the shelves felt like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon. We were completely encircled by books, going up two stories. “There must be thousands of books in here.” Given how big the library was, given how high the shelves went up, if we were looking for a book mismatched to its cover sleeve…

“This could take hours,” I said.

Jameson smiled—with teeth this time. “Don’t be ridiculous, Heiress. It could take days.”



We worked in silence. Neither one of us left for dinner. A thrill ran through my body each time I realized that I was holding a first edition. Every once in a while, I’d flip a book open to find it signed. Stephen King. J. K. Rowling. Toni Morrison. Eventually, I managed to stop pausing in awe at what I held in my hands. I lost track of time, lost track of everything except the rhythm of pulling books off shelves and covers off books, replacing the cover, replacing the book. I could hear Jameson working. I could feel him in the room, as we moved through our respective shelves, closer and closer to each other. He’d taken the upper level. I was working down below. Finally, I glanced up to see him right on top of me.

“What if we’re wasting our time?” I asked. My question echoed through the room.

“Time is money, Heiress. You have plenty to waste.” “Stop calling me that.”

“I have to call you something, and you didn’t seem to appreciate Mystery Girl or the abbreviation thereof.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to point out that I didn’t call him anything. I hadn’t said his name once since entering this room. But somehow, instead of offering that retort, I looked up at him, and a different question came out of my mouth instead.

“What did you mean in the car today, when you said that the last thing I needed was for anyone to see us together?”

I could hear him taking books off shelves and covers off books and replacing them both—again and again—before I got a response. “You spent

the day at the fine institution that is Heights Country Day,” he said. “What do you think I meant?”

He always had to be the one asking questions, always had to turn everything around.

“Don’t tell me,” Jameson murmured up above, “that you didn’t hear any whispers.”

I froze, thinking about what I had heard. “I met a girl.” I made myself continue working my way through the shelf—book off, cover off, cover on, book reshelved. “Thea.”

Jameson snorted. “Thea isn’t a girl. She’s a whirlwind wrapped in a hurricane wrapped in steel—and every girl in that school follows her lead, which means I’m persona non grata and have been for a year.” He paused. “What did Thea say to you?” Jameson’s attempt to sound casual might have fooled me if I’d been looking at his face, but without the expression to sell it, I heard a telltale note underneath. He cares.

Suddenly, I wished I hadn’t brought Thea up. Sowing discord was probably her goal.


Jameson’s use of my given name confirmed for me that he didn’t just want a response; he needed one.

“Thea kept talking about this house,” I said carefully. “About what it must be like for me to live here.” That was true—or true enough. “About all of you.”

“Is it still a lie,” Jameson asked loftily, “if you’re masking what matters, but what you’re saying is technically true?”

He wanted the truth.

“Thea said there was a girl and that she died.” I spoke like I was ripping off a bandage, too fast to second-guess what I was saying.

Overhead, the rhythm of Jameson’s work slowed. I counted five seconds of utter silence before he spoke. “Her name was Emily.”

I knew, though I couldn’t pinpoint how, that he wouldn’t have said it if I’d been able to see his face.

“Her name was Emily,” he repeated. “And she wasn’t just a girl.”

A breath caught in my throat. I forced it out and kept checking books, because I didn’t want him to know how much I’d heard in his tone. Emily mattered to him. She still matters to him.

“I’m sorry,” I said—sorry for bringing it up and sorry she was gone. “We should call it a night.” It was late, and I didn’t trust myself not to say something else I might regret.

Jameson’s working rhythm stopped overhead and was replaced with the sound of footsteps as he made his way to and down the wrought-iron spiral stairs. He positioned himself between me and the exit. “Same time tomorrow?”

It suddenly felt imperative that I not let myself look at his deep green eyes. “We’re making good progress,” I said, forcing myself to head for the door. “Even if we don’t find a way to shortcut the process, we should be able to make it through all the shelves within the week.”

Jameson leaned toward me as I passed. “Don’t hate me,” he said softly.

Why would I hate you? I felt my pulse jump in my throat. Because of what he’d just said, or because of how close he was to me?

“There’s a slight chance that we might not be done within the week.” “Why not?” I asked, forgetting to avoid looking at him.

He brought his lips right next to my ear. “This isn’t the only library in Hawthorne House.”

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