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Chapter no 77

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, 1)

I’d only halfway believed Xander when he’d promised me a helicopter, but there it was, on the front lawn of Hawthorne House, blades still. Oren wouldn’t let me step foot aboard until he’d checked it over. Even then, he insisted on taking the pilot’s spot. I climbed in the back and discovered Jameson already there.

“Order a helicopter?” he asked me, like that was a perfectly normal thing to do.

I buckled myself into the seat next to him. “I’m surprised you waited for liftoff.”

“I told you, Heiress.” He gave me a crooked smile. “I don’t want to do this alone.” For a split second, it was like the two of us were back at the racetrack, barreling toward the finish line, then outside the helicopter, a flash of black caught my eye.

A tuxedo. Grayson’s expression was impossible to read as he climbed on board.

Did Jameson tell you that I killed her? The echo of the question was deafening in my mind. As if he’d heard it, Jameson’s head whipped toward Grayson. “What are you doing here?”

Xander had said that where I went, both of them would follow. Jameson didn’t follow me, I reminded myself, every nerve in my body alive. He got here first.

“May I?” Grayson asked me, nodding toward an empty seat. I could feel Jameson staring at me, feel him willing me to say no.

I nodded.

Grayson sat behind me. Oren checked to make sure we were secure, then turned on the rotor. Within a minute, the sound of the blades was deafening. My heart jumped into my throat as we took to the air.

I’d enjoyed my first time on an airplane, but this was different—it was

more. The noise, the vibration, the heightened sense that almost nothing separated me from the air—or the ground. My heart was beating, but I couldn’t hear it. I couldn’t hear myself think—not about the way Grayson’s voice had broken as he’d asked that question, not about the way Jameson had told me that I didn’t have to kiss him or like him.

All I could think about was looking down.

As we flew over the edge of the Black Wood, I could make out the twisted tangle of trees down below—too dense for sunlight to shine through. But when my gaze shifted toward the center of the forest, the trees thinned out, opening to a clearing in the very center. Jameson and I had been nearing the clearing when Drake had started taking shots. I’d noted the grass, but I hadn’t seen it, not the way I was seeing it now.

From overhead, the clearing, the lighter ring of trees surrounding it, and the dense outer forest formed what looked like a long, skinny letter O.

Or a zero.

 

 

By the time the copter touched down, I felt like I was getting ready to burst out of my skin. I hopped out before the blades had fully stopped, adrenaline-fueled and giddy.

Eight. One. One. Zero.

Jameson bounded toward me. “We did it, Heiress.” He stopped right in front of me, lifting his hands, palm up. Drunk on the high of the helicopter, I did the same, and his fingers locked through mine. “Four middle names. Four numbers.”

Kissing him had been a mistake. Holding his hands now was a mistake

—but I didn’t care.

“Eight, one, one, zero,” I said. “That’s the order we discovered the numbers in—and the order of the clues in the will.” Westbrook, Davenport, Winchester, and Blackwood, in that order. “A combination, maybe?”

“There are at least a dozen safes in the House,” Jameson mused. “But there are other possibilities. An address… coordinates… and there’s no guarantee that the clue isn’t scrambled. To solve it, we may have to reorder the numbers.”

An address. Coordinates. A combination. I closed my eyes, just for a

second, just long enough for my brain to put another possibility into words. “A date?” All four clues were numbers; they were also single digits. For a combination lock or coordinates, I would have expected some two-digit entries. But a date…

The one or the zero would have to go at the front. 1-1-0-8 would be 11/08. “November eighth,” I said, and then I ran through the rest of the possibilities. 08/11. “August eleventh.” 01/18. “January eighteenth.”

Then I hit the last possibility—the last date.

I stopped breathing. This was too big of a coincidence to be a coincidence at all.

“Ten-eighteen—October eighteenth.” I sucked in a breath. Every nerve in my body felt like it was alive. “That’s my birthday.”

I have a secret, my mother had told me on my fifteenth birthday, two years ago, days before she’d died, about the day you were born.…

“No.” Jameson dropped my hands.

“Yes,” I replied. “I was born on October eighteenth. And my mother—” “This isn’t about your mother.” Jameson balled his fingers into fists and

stepped back.

“Jameson?” I had no idea what was going on here. If Tobias Hawthorne had chosen me because of something that had happened the day I was born, that was big. Huge. “This could be it. Maybe his path crossed my mom’s while she was in labor? Maybe she did something for him while she was pregnant with me?”

“Stop.” The word cracked like a whip. Jameson was looking at me like I was unnatural, like I was broken, like the sight of me could turn stomachs, including and especially his.

“What are you—”

“The numbers are not a date.”

Yes, I thought fiercely. They are.

“This can’t be the answer,” he said.

I stepped forward, but he jerked back. I felt a light touch on my arm. Grayson. As gentle as his touch was, I got the distinct sense that he was holding me back.

Why? What had I done?

“Emily died,” Grayson told me, his voice tight, “on October eighteenth, a year ago.”

“That sick son of a bitch,” Jameson cursed. “All of this—the clues, the will, her—all of it for this? He just found a random person born on that day to send a message? This message?”

“Jamie—”

“Don’t talk to me.” Jameson swung his gaze from Grayson to me. “Screw this. I’m done.”

As he stalked away into the night, I called after him. “Where are you going?”

“Congratulations, Heiress,” Jameson called back, his voice dripping with everything but felicitations. “I guess you had the good fortune of being born on the right day. Mystery solved.”

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