Home > The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games #3)(9)

The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games #3)(9)
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Grayson leaned toward her. I wasn’t even sure he knew he was doing it.

“As I got older,” Eve continued, her voice quiet but raw, “I realized that it didn’t matter how perfect I was. I was never going to be good enough because they didn’t want me to be perfect or extraordinary. They wanted me to be invisible.” Whatever emotions Eve was feeling were buried too deep to see. “And that is the one thing that I will never be.”


“What about your siblings?” I asked. Up until now, I’d been so focused on Eve’s resemblance to Emily, on the fact that she was Toby’s daughter, that I hadn’t thought about her other family members—or what they’d done.

“Half-siblings,” Eve said with absolutely no intonation.

Technically, the Hawthorne brothers were half-siblings. Technically, Libby and I were. But there was no mistaking Eve’s tone: It meant something different to her.

“Eli and Mellie came here under false pretenses,” I said. “For you.”

“Eli and Mellie never did a damn thing for me,” Eve replied, her voice hoarse, her head held high. “Christmas morning when I was five, when they had presents under the tree and I didn’t? The family reunions that everyone got to go to but me? Every time I got grounded for existing just a little too loudly? Every time I had to beg a ride home from something because no one bothered to pick me up?” She looked down. “If my siblings came to Hawthorne House, it sure as hell wasn’t for me. I haven’t spoken a word to either of them in two years.” Shining emerald eyes made their way back to mine. “Is that personal enough for you?”

I felt a needle’s stab of icy guilt. I remembered what it was like coming to Hawthorne House as an outsider, and I thought suddenly about my mom and the way she would have welcomed Toby’s daughter with open arms.

About what she would say if she could see me cross-examining her now.

Ballots were passed out. Secrets were ranked. Supplies were chosen.

And then the race was on.




This was what I discovered about Eve during the remainder of Chutes and Ladders: She was competitive, she wasn’t afraid of heights, she had a high tolerance for pain, and she definitely recognized the effect she had on Grayson.

She fit here, at Hawthorne House, with the Hawthornes.

That was the thought at the top of my mind as my fingers latched on to the edge of the roof. A hand reached down and closed around my wrist. “You’re not first,” Jameson told me in a tone that clearly communicated that he knew how I felt about that. “But you’re not last.”

That honor would eventually go to Xander and Max, who had spent far too long pillow fighting each other. I looked past Jameson to the part of the roof that flattened out.

To Grayson and Eve.

“On a scale from boring to brooding,” Jameson quipped, “how’s he holding up?”

Heaven forbid Jameson Hawthorne get caught openly caring about his brother.

“Honestly?” I bit my lip, catching it between my teeth for a moment too long, then pitched my voice low. “I’m worried. Grayson isn’t okay, Jameson. I don’t think your brother has been okay for a very long time.”

Jameson moved toward the edge of the roof—the very edge—and looked out at the sprawling estate. “Hawthornes aren’t, as a general rule, allowed to be anything else.”

He was hurting, too, and when Jameson Hawthorne hurt, he took risks. I knew him, and I knew there was only one way to make him admit to the pain and purge the poison.

“Tahiti,” I said.

That was a code word I didn’t use lightly. If Jameson or I called Tahiti, the other one had to metaphorically strip.

“Your birthday was the second anniversary of Emily’s death.” Jameson’s shoulders and back were taut beneath his shirt. “I almost succeeded in not thinking about it, but now wouldn’t be the worst time for you to tell me I didn’t kill her.”

I stepped up beside him, right on the edge of the roof, heedless of the sixty-foot drop. “What happened to Emily wasn’t your fault.”

Jameson turned his head toward me. “It also wouldn’t be the worst time to tell me that you aren’t jealous of Eve standing that close to Grayson.”

I’d wanted to know what he was feeling. This was part of it, part of what thinking about Emily did to him.

“I’m not jealous,” I said.

Jameson looked me right in the eyes. “Tahiti.”

He’d shown me his. “Okay,” I said roughly. “Maybe I am, but it’s not just about Grayson. Eve is Toby’s daughter. I wanted to be. I thought I was. But I’m not, and she is, and now, suddenly, she’s here, and she’s connected to this place, to all of you—and no, I don’t like it, and I feel petty for feeling that way.” I stepped back from the edge. “But I’m going to tell her about the disk.”

Whether or not I could fully trust Eve, I trusted that we wanted the same thing. I understood better now what it must have meant to her to meet Toby, to be wanted.

Before Jameson could question my decision about the disk, Max hauled herself up onto the roof and collapsed. “Faaaaaaax.” She drew out the word. “I am never doing that again.”

Xander pulled himself up behind her. “How about tomorrow? Same time?”

Their appearance pulled Grayson and Eve toward us.

“So?” Eve said, her expression flecked with vulnerability, her voice tough. “Did I pass your little test?”

In response, I withdrew my drawing of the disk from my pocket and handed it to Eve. “The last time I saw Toby,” I said slowly, “he took this disk from me. We don’t know what it is, but we know it’s worth a fortune.”

Eve stared at the drawing, then her eyes found mine. “How do you know that?”

“He left it for my mother. There was a letter.” That was as much as I could bring myself to tell her. “Did he ever say anything to you about any of this? Do you have any idea where he was keeping the disk?”

“No.” Eve shook her head. “But if someone did take Toby to get this…” Her breath hitched. “What are they going to do to him if he won’t give it to them?”

And, I thought, feeling sick, what will they do to him once they have it?




That night, the only thing that kept me from nightmares was Jameson’s body next to mine. I dreamed about my mom, about Toby, about fire and gold. I woke to the sound of shouting.

“I’m going to throttle him!” There was a grand total of one person who could get a rise out of my sister.

As Jameson began to stir, I slipped out of bed and padded out of my room to the hall. “Another cowboy hat?” I guessed. For the past two months, Nash had been buying cowboy hats for Libby. A veritable rainbow of colors and styles. He liked to leave them where my sister would find them.

“Look at this!” Libby demanded. She held up a cowboy hat. It was black with a bejeweled skull and crossbones in the center and metal spikes down the side.

“It’s very you,” I told her.

“It’s perfect!” Libby said, outraged.

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