Chapter no 29

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

Libby found me shortly after I made my way back to my room. She was holding a stack of electronics. “Alisa said I should buy some things for you. She said you haven’t bought anything for yourself.”

“I haven’t had time.” I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and past the point of being able to wrap my mind around anything that had happened since I’d moved into Hawthorne House.

Including Emily.

“Lucky for you,” Libby replied, “I have nothing but time.” She didn’t sound entirely happy about that, but before I could probe further, she began setting things down on my desk. “New laptop. A tablet. An e-reader, loaded with romance novels, in case you need some escapism.”

“Look around at this place,” I said. “My life is escapism at the moment.” That got a grin out of Libby. “Have you seen the gym?” she asked me,

the awe in her voice making it clear that she had. “Or the chef’s kitchen?” “Not yet.” My gaze caught suddenly on the fireplace, and I found myself

listening, wondering: Was anyone back there? You won’t last a month in this house. I didn’t think Grayson had meant that as a physical threat—and Oren certainly hadn’t reacted as if my life were being threatened. Still, I shivered. “Ave? There’s something I have to show you.” Libby flipped open my

new tablet’s cover. “Just for the record, it’s okay if you want to yell.”

“Why would I—” I cut off when I saw what she’d pulled up. It was a video of Drake.

He was standing next to a reporter. The fact that his hair was combed told me that the interview hadn’t been a total surprise. The caption across the screen read: Friend of the Grambs family.

“Avery was always a loner,” Drake said on-screen. “She didn’t have friends.”

I had Max—and that was all I’d needed.

“I’m not saying she was a bad person. I think she was just kind of desperate for attention. She wanted to matter. A girl like that, a rich old man…” He trailed off. “Let’s just say that there were definite daddy issues.”

Libby cut the video off there.

“Can I see that?” I asked, gesturing toward the tablet with murder in my heart—and probably my eyes.

“That’s the worst of it,” Libby assured me. “Would you like to yell now?”

Not at you. I took the tablet and scrolled through the related videos—all of them interviews or think pieces, all about me. Former classmates. Coworkers. Libby’s mom. I ignored the interviews until I got to one that I couldn’t ignore. It was labeled simply: Skye Hawthorne and Zara Hawthorne-Calligaris.

The two of them stood behind a podium at what appeared to be some kind of press conference—so much for Grayson’s assertion that his mother hadn’t left her room in days.

“Our father was a great man.” Zara’s hair whipped in a subtle wind. The expression on her face was stoic. “He was a revolutionary entrepreneur, a once-in-a-generation philanthropist, and a man who valued family above all else.” She took Skye’s hand. “As we grieve his passing, rest assured that we will not see his life’s work die with him. The Hawthorne Foundation will continue operations. My father’s numerous investments will undergo no immediate changes. While we cannot comment on the complex legalities of the current situation, I can assure you that we are working with the authorities, elder-abuse specialists, and a team of medical and legal professionals to get to the bottom of this situation.” She turned to Skye, whose eyes brimmed with unshed tears—perfect, picturesque, dramatic.

“Our father was our hero,” Zara declared. “We will not allow him, in death, to become a victim. To that end, we are providing the press with the results of a genetic test that proves conclusively that, contrary to the libelous reports and speculation circulating in the tabloids, Avery Grambs is not the result of infidelity on the part of our father, who was faithful to his beloved wife, our mother, for the entirety of their marriage. We as a family are as bewildered at recent events as all of you, but genes don’t lie. Whatever else this girl may be, she is not a Hawthorne.”

The video cut off. Dumbfounded, I thought back to Grayson’s parting

shot. I’d lay money that you’re gone within the week.

“Elder-abuse specialists?” Libby was agog and aghast beside me.

“And the authorities,” I added. “Plus a team of medical specialists. She might not have come right out and said that I’m under investigation for defrauding a dementia-ridden old man, but she sure as hell implied it.”

“She doesn’t get to do that.” Libby was pissed—a blue-haired, ponytailed, gothic ball of fury. “She can’t just say whatever she wants. Call Alisa. You have lawyers!”

What I had was a headache. This wasn’t unexpected. Given the size of the fortune at stake, it was inevitable. Oren had warned me that the women would come after me in the courtroom.

“I’ll call Alisa tomorrow,” I told Libby. “Right now, I’m going to bed.”

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