Chapter no 4

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

The next day, I paid a price for sleeping in my car. My whole body ached, and I had to shower after gym, because paper towels in the bathroom at the diner could only go so far. I didn’t have time to dry my hair, so I arrived at my next class sopping wet. It wasn’t my best look, but I’d gone to school with the same kids my whole life. I was wallpaper.

No one was looking.

Romeo and Juliet is littered with proverbs—small, pithy bits of wisdom that make a statement about the way the world and human nature work.” My English teacher was young and earnest, and I deeply suspected she’d had too much coffee. “Let’s take a step back from Shakespeare. Who can give me an example of an everyday proverb?”

Beggars can’t be choosers, I thought, my head pounding and water droplets dripping down my back. Necessity is the mother of invention. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

The door to the classroom opened. An office aide waited for the teacher to look at her, then announced loudly enough for the whole class to hear, “Avery Grambs is wanted in the office.”

I took that to mean that someone had graded my test.



I knew better than to expect an apology, but I also wasn’t expecting Mr. Altman to meet me at his secretary’s desk, beaming like he’d just had a visit from the Pope. “Avery!”

An alarm went off in the back of my head, because no one was ever that glad to see me.

“Right this way.” He opened the door to his office, and I caught sight of a familiar neon-blue ponytail inside.

“Libby?” I said. She was wearing skull-print scrubs and no makeup, both of which suggested she’d come straight from work. In the middle of a shift. Orderlies at assisted living facilities couldn’t just walk out in the middle of shifts.

Not unless something was wrong.

“Is Dad…” I couldn’t make myself finish the question.

“Your father is fine.” The voice that issued that statement didn’t belong to Libby or Principal Altman. My head whipped up, and I looked past my sister. The chair behind the principal’s desk was occupied—by a guy not much older than me. What is going on here?

He was wearing a suit. He looked like the kind of person who should have had an entourage.

“As of yesterday,” he continued, his low, rich voice measured and precise, “Ricky Grambs was alive, well, and safely passed out in a motel room in Michigan, an hour outside of Detroit.”

I tried not to stare at him—and failed. Light hair. Pale eyes. Features sharp enough to cut rocks.

“How could you possibly know that?” I demanded. didn’t even know where my deadbeat father was. How could he?

The boy in the suit didn’t answer my question. Instead, he arched an eyebrow. “Principal Altman?” he said. “If you could give us a moment?”

The principal opened his mouth, presumably to object to being removed from his own office, but the boy’s eyebrow lifted higher.

“I believe we had an agreement.”

Altman cleared his throat. “Of course.” And just like that, he turned and walked out the door. It closed behind him, and I resumed openly staring at the boy who’d banished him.

“You asked how I know where you father is.” His eyes were the same color as his suit—gray, bordering on silver. “It would be best, for the moment, for you to just assume that I know everything.”

His voice would have been pleasant to listen to if it weren’t for the words. “A guy who thinks he knows everything,” I muttered. “That’s new.”

“A girl with a razor-sharp tongue,” he returned, silver eyes focused on mine, the ends of his lips ticking upward.

“Who are you?” I asked. “And what do you want?” With me, something inside me added. What do you want with me?

“All I want,” he said, “is to deliver a message.” For reasons I couldn’t quite pinpoint, my heart started beating faster. “One that has proven rather difficult to send via traditional means.”

“That might be my fault,” Libby volunteered sheepishly beside me. “What might be your fault?” I turned to look at her, grateful for an

excuse to look away from Gray Eyes and fighting the urge to glance back. “The first thing you need to know,” Libby said, as earnestly as anyone

wearing skull-print scrubs had ever said anything, “is that I had no idea the letters were real.”

“What letters?” I asked. I was the only person in this room who didn’t know what was going on here, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that not knowing was a liability, like standing on train tracks but not knowing which direction the train was coming from.

“The letters,” the boy in the suit said, his voice wrapping around me, “that my grandfather’s attorneys have been sending, certified mail, to your residence for the better part of three weeks.”

“I thought they were a scam,” Libby told me.

“I assure you,” the boy replied silkily, “they are not.”

I knew better than to put any confidence in the assurances of good- looking guys.

“Let me start again.” He folded his hands on the desk between us, the thumb of his right hand lightly circling the cuff link on his left wrist. “My name is Grayson Hawthorne. I’m here on behalf of McNamara, Ortega, and Jones, a Dallas-based law firm representing my grandfather’s estate.” Grayson’s pale eyes met mine. “My grandfather passed away earlier this month.” A weighty pause. “His name was Tobias Hawthorne.” Grayson studied my reaction—or, more accurately, the lack thereof. “Does that name mean anything to you?”

The sensation of standing on train tracks was back. “No,” I said. “Should it?”

“My grandfather was a very wealthy man, Ms. Grambs. And it appears that, along with our family and people who worked for him for years, you have been named in his will.”

I heard the words but couldn’t process them. “His what?”

“His will,” Grayson repeated, a slight smile crossing his lips. “I don’t know what he left you, exactly, but your presence is required at the will’s

reading. We’ve been postponing it for weeks.”

I was an intelligent person, but Grayson Hawthorne might as well have been speaking Swedish.

“Why would your grandfather leave anything to me?” I asked.

Grayson stood. “That’s the question of the hour, isn’t it?” He stepped out from behind the desk, and suddenly I knew exactly what direction the train was coming from.


“I’ve taken the liberty of making travel arrangements on your behalf.” This wasn’t an invitation. It was a summons. “What makes you think—”

I started to say, but Libby cut me off. “Great!” she said, giving me a healthy side-eye.

Grayson smirked. “I’ll give you two a moment.” His eyes lingered on mine too long for comfort, and then, without another word, he strode out the door.

Libby and I were silent for a full five seconds after he was gone. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” she whispered finally, “but I think he might be God.”

I snorted. “He certainly thinks so.” It was easier to ignore the effect he’d had on me now that he was gone. What kind of person had self-assurance that absolute? It was there in every aspect of his posture and word choice, in every interaction. Power was as much a fact of life for this guy as gravity. The world bent to the will of Grayson Hawthorne. What money couldn’t buy him, those eyes probably did.

“Start from the beginning,” I told Libby. “And don’t leave anything out.”

She fidgeted with the inky-black tips of her blue ponytail. “A couple of weeks ago, we started getting these letters—addressed to you, care of me. They said that you’d inherited money, gave us a number to call. I thought they were a scam. Like one of those emails that claims to be from a foreign prince.”

“Why would this Tobias Hawthorne—a man I’ve never met, never even heard of—put me in his will?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Libby said, “but that”—she gestured in the direction Grayson had gone—“is not a scam. Did you see the way he dealt with Principal Altman? What do you think their agreement was? A bribe… or a


Both. Pushing down that response, I pulled out my phone and connected to the school’s Wi-Fi. One internet search for Tobias Hawthorne later, the two of us were reading a news headline: Noted Philanthropist Dies at 78.

“Do you know what philanthropist means?” Libby asked me seriously. “It means rich.”

“It means someone who gives to charity,” I corrected her.

“So… rich.” Libby gave me a look. “What if you are charity? They wouldn’t send this guy’s grandson to get you if he’d just left you a few hundred dollars. We must be talking thousands. You could travel, Avery, or put it toward college, or buy a better car.”

I could feel my heart starting to beat faster again. “Why would a total stranger leave me anything?” I reiterated, resisting the urge to daydream, even for a second, because if I started, I wasn’t sure I could stop.

“Maybe he knew your mom?” Libby suggested. “I don’t know, but I do know that you need to go to the reading of that will.”

“I can’t just take off,” I told her. “Neither can you.” We’d both miss work. I’d miss class. And yet… if nothing else, a trip would get Libby away from Drake, at least temporarily.

And if this is real… It was already getting harder not to think about the possibilities.

“My shifts are covered for the next two days,” Libby informed me. “I made some calls, and so are yours.” She reached for my hand. “Come on, Ave. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a trip, just you and me?”

She squeezed my hand. After a moment, I squeezed back. “Where exactly is the reading of the will?”

“Texas!” Libby grinned. “And they didn’t just book our tickets. They booked them first class.

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