Ms. Grambs, you understand that if you are emancipated, you will be considered a legal adult. You will be responsible for yourself. You will be held to adult standards. You are literally signing away the rest of your childhood.”
In the past six weeks, I’d been shot at, blown up, kidnapped, and paraded around as the living, breathing embodiment of Cinderella stories.
To the world, I was a scandal, a mystery, a curiosity, a fantasy.
To Tobias Hawthorne, I’d been a tool.
“I understand,” I told the judge. And just like that, it was done.
“Congratulations,” Alisa said as we stepped out of the courthouse.
Oren’s men cleared a path through the paparazzi, and I made my way to the SUV. “You’re an adult.” Alisa sounded pretty darn satisfied with herself.
“You can write your own will.”
I leaned back in my seat and thought about how carefully my lawyer had been managing my public image, how much she wanted the world to believe that the firm was calling the shots.
I smiled. “I can do a lot more than that.”
Three hours later, I found Jameson on the roof. He was holding a familiar knife in his hands. He faked like he was going to toss it to me, and my heart sped up.
His eyes met mine, and it sped up more.
“I have a lot to tell you.” The wind caught my hair, whipping it around my face. “I met Toby, face-to-face. He has a daughter, but it’s not me. She looks just like Emily Laughlin.”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a coin. This felt more dangerous than riding on the back of a motorcycle or speeding down a racetrack or getting shot at in the Black Wood. This wasn’t just a rush.
This was a risk—one the old Avery never would have been capable of taking.
My eyes on Jameson’s, I uncurled my fingers, revealing the coin in my palm. “Toby took the disk,” I said. “We might never know what it was.”
Jameson’s lips ticked up at the edges. “This is Hawthorne House, Heiress. There will always be another mystery. Just when you think you’ve found the last hidden passage, the last tunnel, the last secret built into the walls—there will always be one more.”
There was an energy in his voice when he spoke about the House.
“That’s why you love it.” I locked my eyes on his. “The House.”
He leaned forward. “That’s why I love the House.”
I held up the coin. “It’s not the disk,” I said. “But sometimes you have to improvise.” My heart was racing. I was vibrating with the same energy I’d heard in his tone.
And like Jameson, I loved it.
“Heads, you kiss me,” I said. “Tails, I kiss you. And this time…” My voice cracked. “It means something.”
Jameson shot me one of those devastating, crooked Jameson Winchester Hawthorne grins. “What are you saying, Heiress?”
I tossed the coin into the air, and as it turned, I thought about everything that had happened. All of it.
I’d found Toby.
I knew my mother’s secret.
I understood, more than ever, why my name had caught the attention of a billionaire who’d only met me once. Maybe that was all there was to it. Or maybe I was one stone meant for twelve birds, most of them still undiscovered.
Like Jameson had said, this was Hawthorne House. There would always be another mystery. Like me, Jameson would always be driven to solve them.
This wasn’t nothing.
This was the beginning—and I was ready to be bold.