Home > The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games #3)(2)

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games #3)(2)
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

“Yes,” I murmured. “That Tuscany.”

“I’ve seen better.”

“Jameson!”

“What do you want to hear about first, Heiress: Siena, Florence, or the vineyards?”

I wanted all of it, but there was a reason Jameson was using the standard Hawthorne gap year to travel. “Tell me about the villa.” Did you find anything?

“Your Tuscan villa was built in the seventeenth century. It’s supposedly a farmhouse but looks more like a castle, and it’s surrounded by more than a hundred acres of olive orchard. There’s a pool, a wood-fired pizza oven, and a massive stone fireplace original to the house.”

I could picture it. Vividly—and not just because I had a binder of photos. “And when you checked the fireplace?” I didn’t have to ask if he had checked the fireplace.

“I found something.”

I sat up, my hair falling down my back. “A clue?”

“Probably,” Jameson replied. “But to what puzzle?”

My entire body felt electric. “If you don’t tell me, I will end you, Hawthorne.”

“And I,” Jameson replied, “would very much enjoy being ended.” My traitorous lips threatened a smile. Tasting victory, Jameson gave me my answer. “I found a triangular mirror.”

Just like that, my brain was off to the races. Tobias Hawthorne had raised his grandsons on puzzles, riddles, and games. The mirror was probably a clue, but Jameson had been right: There was no telling what game it was meant to be a part of. In any case, it wasn’t what he was traveling the world looking for.

“We’ll figure out what the disk was.” Jameson as good as read my mind. “The world is the board, Heiress. We just have to keep rolling the dice.”

Maybe, but this time we weren’t following a trail or playing one of the old man’s games. We were feeling around in the dark, hoping that there might be answers out there—answers that would tell us why a small coinlike disk engraved with concentric circles was worth a fortune.

Why Tobias Hawthorne’s namesake and only son had left that disk for my mother.

Why Toby had snatched it back from me before he’d disappeared, off to play dead again.

Toby and that disk were my last connections to my mother, and they were gone. It hurt to think about that for too long. “I found another entry to the passageways today,” I said abruptly.

“Oh, really?” Jameson replied, the verbal equivalent of holding out a hand at the beginning of a waltz. “Which one did you find?”

“Circular library.”

On the other end of the phone line, there was a brief but unmistakable silence.

Realization dawned on me. “You didn’t know about that one.” Victory was so very sweet. “Would you like me to tell you where it is?” I crooned.

“When I get back,” Jameson murmured, “I’ll find it myself.”

I had no idea when he was coming back, but soon my year at Hawthorne House would be up. I would be free. I could go anywhere, do anything—and everything.

“Where are you headed next?” I asked Jameson. If I let myself think too much about everything, I would drown in it—in wanting, in longing, in believing we could have it all.

“Santorini,” Jameson replied. “But say the word, Heiress, and—”

“Keep going. Keep looking.” My voice went hoarse. “Keep telling me everything.”

“Everything?” Jameson repeated in a rough, low tone that made me think of what the two of us could be doing if I were there with him.

I rolled over onto my stomach. “The anagram you were looking for? It’s knead.”

 

 

CHAPTER 3


Weeks passed in a blur of charity galas and prep school exams, nights talking to Jameson and too much time spent wondering whether Grayson would ever pick up a damn phone.

Focus. Pushing everything from my mind, I took aim. Looking down the barrel of the gun, I breathed in and out and took the shot—then another and another.

The Hawthorne estate had everything, including its own shooting range. I wasn’t a gun person. This wasn’t my idea of fun. But neither was being defenseless. Forcing my jaw to unclench, I lowered my weapon and took off my ear protection.

Nash surveyed my target. “Nice grouping, kid.”

Theoretically, I’d never need a gun—or the knife in my boot. In theory, the Hawthorne estate was impenetrable, and when I went out into the world, I would always have armed security with me. But since being named in Tobias Hawthorne’s will, I’d been shot at, nearly blown up, and kidnapped. Theory hadn’t kept the nightmares away.

Nash teaching me to fight back had. “Your lawyer bring you that trust paperwork yet?” he asked casually.

My lawyer was his ex, and he knew her far too well. “Maybe,” I replied, Alisa’s explanation ringing in my ears. Typically, with an heir your age, there would be certain safeguards in place. Since Mr. Hawthorne didn’t see fit to erect them, it’s an option you should consider yourself. Per Alisa, if I put the money in a trust, there would be a trustee in charge of safeguarding and growing the fortune on my behalf. Alisa and the partners at McNamara, Ortega, and Jones would, of course, be willing to serve as trustees, with the understanding that I would be denied nothing I requested. A revocable trust will simply minimize the pressure on you until you’re ready to fully take the reins.

“Remind me again,” Nash told me, bending to capture my gaze with his. “What’s our rule about fightin’ dirty?”

He wasn’t nearly as subtle as he thought he was when it came to Alisa Ortega, but I still answered the question. “There’s no such thing as fighting dirty,” I told Nash, “if you win.”

 

 

CHAPTER 4


The morning of my eighteenth birthday—and the first day of fall break at the vaunted Heights Country Day School—I woke up to see an unspeakably gorgeous ball gown hanging in my doorway. It was a deep midnight green, floor-length, with a bodice marked by tens of thousands of tiny black jewels in a dark, delicate, mesmerizing pattern.

It was a stop-and-stare dress. A gasp-and-stare-again dress.

The kind one would wear to a headline-grabbing, hashtag-exploding black-tie event. Damn it, Alisa. I stalked toward the gown, feeling mutinous—then saw the note dangling from the hanger: WEAR ME IF YOU DARE.

That wasn’t Alisa’s handwriting.

 

 

I found Jameson at the edge of the Black Wood. He was wearing a white tuxedo that fit his body far too well and standing next to an honest-to-God hot-air balloon.

Jameson Winchester Hawthorne. I ran like the ball gown wasn’t weighing me down, like I didn’t have a knife strapped to my thigh.

Jameson caught me, our bodies colliding. “Happy birthday, Heiress.”

Some kisses were soft and gentle—and some were like fire.

Eventually, the realization that we had an audience managed to penetrate my brain. Oren was discreet. He wasn’t looking at us, but my head of security clearly wasn’t about to let Jameson Hawthorne fly off with me alone.

Reluctantly, I pulled back. “A hot-air balloon?” I asked Jameson dryly. “Really?”

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