Chapter no 32

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

The library was empty when I stepped through the door at nine fifteen, but it didn’t stay empty for long. Jameson arrived at half past nine, and Grayson let himself in at nine thirty-one.

“What are we doing today?” Grayson asked his brother.

“We?” Jameson shot back.

Grayson meticulously cuffed his sleeves. He’d changed after his workout, donning a stiff collared shirt like armor. “Can’t an older brother spend time with his younger brother and an interloper of dubious intentions without getting the third degree?”

“He doesn’t trust me with you,” I translated.

“I’m such a delicate flower.” Jameson’s tone was light, but his eyes told a different story. “In need of protection and constant supervision.”

Grayson was undaunted by sarcasm. “So it would seem.” He smiled, the expression razor sharp. “What are we doing today?” he repeated.

I had no idea what it was about his voice that made him so impossible to ignore.

“Heiress and I,” Jameson replied pointedly, “are following a hunch, doubtlessly wasting sinful amounts of time on what I’m sure you would consider to be nonsensical flapdoodle.”

Grayson frowned. “I don’t talk like that.”

Jameson let the arch of an eyebrow speak for itself.

Grayson narrowed his eyes. “And what hunch are the two of you following?”

When it became clear that Jameson wasn’t going to answer, I did—not because I owed Grayson Hawthorne a single damn thing. Because part of any winning strategy, long-term, was knowing when to play to your opponent’s expectations and when to subvert them. Grayson Hawthorne expected nothing from me. Nothing good.

“We think your grandfather’s letter to Jameson included a clue about what he was thinking.”

“What he was thinking,” Grayson repeated, sharp eyes making a casual study of my features, “and why he left everything to you.”

Jameson leaned back against the doorframe. “It sounds like him, doesn’t it?” he asked Grayson. “One last game?”

I could hear in Jameson’s tone that he wanted Grayson to say yes. He wanted his brother’s agreement, or possibly approval. Maybe some part of him wanted for them to do this together. For a split second, I saw a spark of something in Grayson’s eyes, too, but it was extinguished so quickly I was left wondering if the light and my mind were playing tricks on me.

“Frankly, Jamie,” Grayson commented, “I’m surprised you still feel you know the old man at all.”

“I am just full of surprises.” Jameson must have caught himself wanting something from Grayson, because the light in his own eyes went out, too. “And you can leave any time, Gray.”

“I think not,” Grayson replied. “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” He let those words hang in the air. “Or is it? Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

My eyes darted toward Jameson, who stood eerily, absolutely still.

“He left you the same message,” Jameson said finally, pushing off the doorway and pacing the room. “The same clue.”

“Not a clue,” Grayson countered. “An indication that he wasn’t in his right mind.”

Jameson whirled on him. “You don’t believe that.” He assessed Grayson’s expression, his posture. “But a judge might.” Jameson shot me a look. “He’ll use his letter against you if he can.”

He might have given his letter to Zara and Constantine already, I thought. But according to what Alisa had told me, that wouldn’t matter.

“There was another will before this one,” I said, looking from brother to brother. “Your grandfather left your family even less in that one. He didn’t disinherit you for me.” I was looking at Grayson when I said those words. “He disinherited the entire Hawthorne family before you were even born— right after your uncle died.”

Jameson stopped pacing. “You’re lying.” His entire body was tense. Grayson held my gaze. “She’s not.”

If I’d been guessing how this would go, I would have guessed that Jameson would believe me and that Grayson would be the skeptic. Regardless, both of them were staring at me now.

Grayson broke eye contact first. “You may as well tell me what you think that godforsaken letter means, Jamie.”

“And why,” Jameson said through gritted teeth, “would I give away the game like that?”

They were used to competing with each other, to pushing to the finish line. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong here—between them— at all.

“You do realize, Jamie, that I am capable of staying here with the two of you in this room indefinitely?” Grayson said. “As soon as I see what you’re up to, you know I’ll reason it out. I was raised to play, same as you.”

Jameson stared hard at his brother, then smiled. “It’s up to the interloper of dubious intentions.” His smile turned to a smirk.

He expects me to send Grayson packing. I probably should have, but it was entirely possible that we were wasting our time here, and I had no particular objection to wasting Grayson Hawthorne’s.

“He can stay.”

You could have cut the tension in the room with a knife.

“All right, Heiress.” Jameson flashed me another wild smile. “As you wish.”

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