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Chapter no 5

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

I’d never flown before. Looking down from ten thousand feet, I could imagine myself going farther than Texas. Paris. Bali. Machu Picchu. Those had always been someday dreams.

But now…

Beside me, Libby was in heaven, sipping on a complimentary cocktail. “Picture time,” she declared. “Smoosh in and hold up your warm nuts.”

On the other side of the aisle, a lady shot Libby a disapproving look. I wasn’t sure whether the target of her disapproval was Libby’s hair, the camo-print jacket she’d changed into when she’d ditched her scrubs, her metal-studded choker, the selfie she was attempting to take, or the volume with which she’d just said the phrase warm nuts.

Adopting my haughtiest look, I leaned toward my sister and raised my warm nuts high.

Libby laid her head on my shoulder and snapped the pic. She turned the phone to show me. “I’ll send it to you when we land.” The smile on her face wavered, just for a second. “Don’t put it online, okay?”

Drake doesn’t know where you are, does he? I bit back the urge to remind her that she was allowed to have a life. I didn’t want to argue. “I won’t.” That wasn’t any big sacrifice on my part. I had social media accounts, but I mostly used them to DM Max.

And speaking of… I pulled my phone out. I’d put it in airplane mode, which meant no texting, but first class offered free Wi-Fi. I sent Max a quick update on what had happened, then spent the rest of the flight obsessively reading up on Tobias Hawthorne.

He’d made his money in oil, then diversified. I’d expected, based on the way Grayson had said his grandfather was a “wealthy” man and the newspaper’s use of the word philanthropist, that he was some kind of millionaire.

I was wrong.

Tobias Hawthorne wasn’t just “wealthy” or “well-off.” There weren’t any polite terms for what Tobias Hawthorne was, other than really insert- expletive-of-your-choice-here filthy rich. Billions, with a and plural. He was the ninth-richest person in the United States and the richest man in the state of Texas.

Forty-six point two billion dollars. That was his net worth. As far as numbers went, it didn’t even sound real. Eventually, I stopped wondering why a man I’d never met would have left me something—and started wondering how much.

Max messaged back right before landing: Are you foxing with me, beach?

I grinned. No. I am legit on a plane to Texas right now. Getting ready to land.

Max’s only response was: Holy ship.

 

 

A dark-haired woman in an all-white power suit met Libby and me the second we stepped past security. “Ms. Grambs.” She nodded to me, then to Libby, as she added on a second identical greeting. “Ms. Grambs.” She turned, expecting us to follow. To my chagrin, we both did. “I’m Alisa Ortega,” she said, “from McNamara, Ortega, and Jones.” Another pause, then she cast a sideways glance at me. “You are a very hard young woman to get ahold of.”

I shrugged. “I live in my car.”

“She doesn’t live there,” Libby said quickly. “Tell her you don’t.” “We’re so glad you could make it.” Alisa Ortega, from McNamara,

Ortega, and Jones, didn’t wait for me to tell her anything. I had the sense that my half of this conversation was perfunctory. “During your time in Texas, you’re to consider yourselves guests of the Hawthorne family. I’ll be your liaison to the firm. Anything you need while you’re here, come to me.”

Don’t lawyers bill by the hour? I thought. How much was this personal pickup costing the Hawthorne family? I didn’t even consider the option that this woman might not be a lawyer. She looked to be in her late twenties.

Talking to her gave me the same feeling as talking to Grayson Hawthorne. She was someone.

Is there anything I can do for you?” Alisa Ortega asked, striding toward an automatic door, her pace not slowing at all when it seemed like the door might not open in time.

I waited until I’d made sure she wasn’t going to run smack into the glass before I replied. “How about some information?”

“You’ll have to be a bit more specific.” “Do you know what’s in the will?” I asked.

“I do not.” She gestured to a black sedan idling near the curb. She opened the back door for me. I slid in, and Libby followed suit. Alisa sat in the front passenger seat. The driver’s seat was already occupied. I tried to see the driver but couldn’t make out much of his face.

“You’ll find out what’s in the will soon enough,” Alisa said, the words as crisp and neat as that dare-the-devil-to-ruin-it white suit. “We all will. The reading is scheduled for shortly after your arrival at Hawthorne House.”

Not the Hawthornes’ house. Just Hawthorne House, like it was some kind of English manor, complete with a name.

“Is that where we’ll be staying?” Libby asked. “Hawthorne House?”

Our return tickets had been booked for tomorrow. We’d packed for an overnight.

“You’ll have your pick of bedrooms,” Alisa assured us. “Mr. Hawthorne bought the land the House is built on more than fifty years ago and spent every one of those years adding onto the architectural marvel he built there. I’ve lost track of the total number of bedrooms, but it’s upward of thirty. Hawthorne House is… quite something.”

That was the most information we’d gotten out of her yet. I pressed my luck. “I’m guessing Mr. Hawthorne was quite something, too?”

“Good guess,” Alisa said. She glanced back at me. “Mr. Hawthorne was fond of good guessers.”

An eerie feeling washed over me then, almost like a premonition. Is that why he chose me?

“How well did you know him?” Libby asked beside me.

“My father has been Tobias Hawthorne’s attorney since before I was born.” Alisa Ortega wasn’t power-talking now. Her voice was soft. “I spent

a lot of time at Hawthorne House growing up.”

He wasn’t just a client to her, I thought. “Do you have any idea why I’m here?” I asked. “Why he’d leave me anything at all?”

“Are you the world-saving type?” Alisa asked, like that was a perfectly ordinary question.

“No?” I guessed.

“Ever had your life ruined by someone with the last name Hawthorne?” Alisa continued.

I stared at her, then managed to answer more confidently this time. “No.”

Alisa smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Lucky you.”

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