The knight returns with the damsel in distress,” Jameson declared as I made my way toward him. He glanced toward Grayson. “You’re the damsel.”
“I figured,” Grayson deadpanned.
“What are you doing here?” I asked Jameson, but the truth was, I didn’t care why he’d come—only that he was here. I’d won—after everything, I had won—and Jameson was the only person on the planet capable of fully understanding exactly how it had felt the moment I’d realized that my plan was going to work.
The rush. The thrill. The adrenaline-soaked awe.
The moment victory had been within my grasp had been like standing at the edge of the world’s most powerful waterfall, the roar of the moment blocking out everything else.
It was like jumping off a cliff and finding out you could fly.
It was like Jameson and me and Jameson-and-me, and I wanted to live it all over again with him.
“I thought you could use a ride home,” Jameson told me. I looked past him, expecting to see the McLaren or one of the Bugattis or the Aston Martin Valkyrie, but instead, my gaze landed on a helicopter—smaller than the one Oren had flown here.
“Pretty sure you aren’t allowed to land a helicopter there,” Grayson told his brother.
“You know what they say about permission and forgiveness,” Jameson replied, then he focused back on me with a familiar look—equal parts I dare you and I’ll never let you go. “Want to learn to fly?”
That night, I turned the cube Toby had given me over in my hands. My finger caught on an edge, and I realized that it was made of interlocking pieces. Working slowly, I solved the puzzle, disassembling the cube and laying the pieces out in front of me.
On each one, he’d carved a word.
And that, even more than the moment I’d defeated Blake, was when I knew.
The next morning, before anyone else was awake, I went to the Great Room and lit a fire in the massive fireplace. I could have done this in my own room—or in any of the other dozen fireplaces in Hawthorne House—but it felt right to return to the room where the will had been read. I could almost see ghosts here: all of us, in that moment.
Me, thinking how life-changing inheriting a few thousand dollars would be.
The Hawthornes, learning the old man had left their fortune to me.
The flames flickered higher and higher in the fireplace, and I looked down at the papers in my hand: the trust paperwork Alisa had drawn up.
“What are you doing?” Libby padded toward me, wearing house shoes shaped like coffins and stifling a yawn.
I held up the papers. “If I sign this, it will tie my assets up in a trust—at least for a little while.”
All that money. All that power.
Libby looked from me to the fireplace. “Well,” she said as chipper as anyone wearing her other I EAT MORNING PEOPLE shirt had ever sounded, “what are you waiting for?”
I looked down at the trust paperwork, up at the fireplace—and tossed it all in. As the flames licked at the pages, devouring the legalese and, with it, the option to foist the power and responsibility I’d been given off on anyone else, I felt something in me begin to loosen, like the petals of a tulip opening to the slightest bloom.
I could do this.
I would do this.
If the past year had been any kind of test—I was ready.
I started taking the leather notebook Grayson had given me everywhere. I didn’t have a year to make my plans. I had days. And yes, there were financial advisors and a legal team and a status quo that I could lean into if I wanted to buy myself time, but that wasn’t what I wanted.
That wasn’t the plan.
Deep down, I knew what I wanted to do. What I needed to do. And all of the lawyers and financial advisors and power players in the state of Texas—they weren’t going to like it.
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