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Chapter no 55

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

Jameson left, and I didn’t follow him.

Thea’s right, Grayson whispered in the recesses of my mind. This family

—we destroy everything we touch. I choked back tears. I’d been shot at, I’d been injured, and I’d been kissed—but I sure as hell wasn’t destroyed.

“I’m stronger than that.” I angled my face toward the mirror and looked myself in the eye. If it came down to a choice between being scared, being hurt, and being pissed, I knew which one I preferred.

I tried calling Max one more time, then texted her: Someone tried to kill me, and I made out with Jameson Hawthorne.

If that didn’t garner a response, nothing would.

I made my way back into the bedroom. Even though I’d calmed down a little, I still scanned for threats, and I saw one: Rebecca Laughlin, standing in the doorway. Her face looked even paler than usual, her hair as red as blood. She looked shell-shocked.

Because she overheard Jameson and me? Because her grandparents told her about the shooting? I wasn’t sure. She was wearing thick hiking boots and cargo pants, both of them spattered with mud. Staring at her, all I could think was that if Emily had been even half as beautiful as her sister was, it was no wonder Jameson could look at me and think only about his grandfather’s game.

Everything is a game. Even this. Especially this.

“My grandmother sent me to check on you.” Rebecca’s voice was soft and hesitant.

“I’m okay,” I said, and I almost meant it. I had to be okay.

“Gran said you were shot.” Rebecca stayed in the doorway, like she was afraid to come any closer.

“Shot at,” I clarified.

“I’m glad,” Rebecca said, and then she looked mortified. “I mean, that

you weren’t shot. It’s good, right, getting shot at instead of shot?” Her gaze darted nervously from me toward the twin beds, the quilts. “Emily would have told you to simplify and say that you were shot.” Rebecca sounded more sure of herself telling me what Emily would have said than trying to summon an appropriate response herself. “There was a bullet. You were wounded. Emily would have said you were entitled to a little melodrama.”

I was entitled to look at everyone like they were a suspect. I was entitled to an adrenaline-fueled lapse in judgment. And maybe I was entitled, just this once, to push for answers.

“You and Emily shared this room?” I said. That was obvious now, when I looked at the twin beds. When Rebecca and Emily came to visit their grandparents, they stayed here. “Was purple your favorite color as a kid or hers?”

“Hers,” Rebecca said. She gave me a very small shrug. “She used to tell me that my favorite color was purple, too.”

In the picture I’d seen of the two of them, Emily had been looking directly at the camera, dead center; Rebecca had been on the fringes, looking away.

“I feel like I should warn you.” Rebecca wasn’t even facing me anymore. She walked over to one of the beds.

“Warn me about what?” I asked, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I registered the mud on her boots—and the fact that she’d been on the premises, but not with her grandparents, when I’d been shot at.

Just because she doesn’t feel like a threat doesn’t mean she isn’t one.

But when Rebecca started talking again, it wasn’t about the shooting. “I’m supposed to say that my sister was wonderful.” She acted like that wasn’t a change of subject, like Emily was what she was warning me about. “And she was, when she wanted to be. Her smile was contagious. Her laugh was worse, and when she said something was a good idea, people believed her. She was good to me, almost all the time.” Rebecca met my gaze, head- on. “But she wasn’t nearly as good to those boys.”

Boys, plural. “What did she do?” I asked. I should have been more focused on who shot me, but part of me couldn’t shake the way Jameson had invoked Emily, right before walking away from me.

“Em didn’t like to choose.” Rebecca seemed to be picking her words carefully. “She wanted everything more than I wanted anything. And the

one time I wanted something…” She shook her head and aborted that sentence. “My job was to keep my sister happy. It’s something my parents used to tell me when we were little—that Emily was sick, and I wasn’t, so I should do what I could to make her smile.”

“And the boys?” I asked. “They made her smile.”

I read into what Rebecca was saying—what she’d been saying. Em didn’t like to choose. “She dated both of them?” I tried to get a handle on that. “Did they know?”

“Not at first,” Rebecca whispered, like some part of her thought Emily might hear us talking.

“What happened when Grayson and Jameson found out she was dating both of them?”

“You’re only asking that because you didn’t know Emily,” Rebecca said. “She didn’t want to choose, and neither one of them wanted to let her go. She turned it into a competition. A little game.”

And then she died.

“How did Emily die?” I asked, because I might never get another opening like this one—not with Rebecca, not with the boys.

Rebecca was looking at me, but I got the general sense that she wasn’t seeing me. That she was somewhere else. “Grayson told me that it was her heart,” she whispered.

Grayson. I couldn’t think beyond that. It wasn’t until Rebecca had left that I had realized she’d never gotten around to telling me what, specifically, she ought to have been warning me about.

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