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Chapter no 39

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

If I’d known I was going to end up in a one-on-one conversation with a naked, bubble-covered Skye Hawthorne, I probably would have had some bourbon myself.

“Negative emotions age you.” Skye shifted her position in the tub, causing water to slosh against the sides. “There’s only so much one can do with Mercury in retrograde, but…” She let out a long, theatrical breath. “I forgive you, Avery Grambs.”

“I didn’t ask you to,” I responded.

She proceeded as if she had not heard me. “You will, of course, continue to provide me a modest amount of financial support.”

I was starting to wonder if this woman was legitimately living on a different planet.

“Why would I give you anything?”

I expected a sharp comeback, but all I got was an indulgent little hum, like was the one being ridiculous here.

“If you’re not going to answer Jameson’s question,” I said, “then I’m leaving.”

She let me get halfway to the door. “You’ll support me,” she said lightly, “because I’m their mother. And I will answer your question as soon as you answer mine. What are your intentions toward my son?”

“Excuse me?” I turned to face her before I remembered, a second too late, why I’d been trying not to look at her the entire time I’d been in the room.

The bubbles obscured what I didn’t want to see—but just barely.

“You waltzed into my suite with my shirtless, grieving son by your side. A mother has concerns, and Jameson is special. Brilliant, the way my father was. The way Toby was.”

“Your brother,” I said, and suddenly, I had no interest in leaving this

room. “What happened to him?” Alisa had given me the gist but very few details.

“My father ruined Toby.” Skye addressed her answer to the rim of her champagne glass. “Spoiled him. He was always meant to be the heir, you know. And once he was gone… well, it was Zara and me.” Her expression darkened, but then she smiled. “And then…”

“You had the boys,” I filled in. I wondered, then, if she’d had them

because Toby was gone.

“Do you know why Jameson was Daddy’s favorite when, by all rights, it should have been perfect, dutiful Grayson?” Skye asked. “It wasn’t because my Jamie is brilliant or beautiful or charismatic. It was because Jameson Winchester Hawthorne is hungry. He’s looking for something. He’s been looking for it since the day he was born.” She downed the rest of the champagne in one gulp. “Grayson is everything Toby wasn’t, and Jameson is just like him.”

“There’s no one like Jameson.” In no way had I meant to utter those words out loud.

“You see?” Skye gave me a knowing look—the same one Alisa had given me my first day at Hawthorne House. “You’re already his.” Skye closed her eyes and lay back in the tub. “We used to lose him when he was little, you know. For hours, occasionally for a day. We’d look away for a second, and he’d disappear into the walls. And every time we found him, I’d pick him up and cuddle him tight and know, to the depths of my soul, that all he wanted was to get lost again.” She opened her eyes. “That’s all you are.” Skye stood up and grabbed a robe. I averted my eyes as she put it on. “Just another way to get lost. That’s what she was, too.”

She. “Emily,” I said out loud.

“She was a beautiful girl,” Skye mused, “but she could have been ugly, and they would have loved her just the same. There was just something about her.”

“Why are you telling me this?” I asked.

“You,” Skye Hawthorne stated emphatically, “are no Emily.” She bent to pick up the champagne bottle and refilled her glass. She padded toward me, barefoot and dripping, and held it out. “I’ve found bubbles to be a bit of a cure-all myself.” Her stare was intense. “Go on. Drink.”

Was she serious? I took a step back. “I don’t like champagne.”

“And I”—Skye took a long drink—“didn’t choose my sons’ middle names.” She held the glass up, as if she were toasting me—or toasting to my demise.

“If you didn’t choose them,” I said, “then who did?” Skye finished off the champagne. “My father.”

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