The Inheritance Games: Don’t miss this New York Times bestselling “impossible to put down” (Buzzfeed) novel with deadly stakes, thrilling twists, and juicy secrets-perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.
Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why — or even who Tobias Hawthorne is.
To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into a sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch — and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions.
Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.
About the Author
Jennifer Lynn Barnes is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty acclaimed young adult novels, including Little White Lies, Deadly Little Scandals, The Lovely and the Lost, and The Naturals series: The Naturals, Killer Instinct, All In, Bad Blood, and the e-novella, Twelve. Jen is also a Fulbright Scholar with advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2012 and is currently a professor of psychology and professional writing at the University of Oklahoma. You can find her online at www.jenniferlynnbarnes.com or follow her on Twitter @jenlynnbarnes.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
When I was a kid, my mom constantly invented games. The Quiet Game. The Who Can Make Their Cookie Last Longer? Game. A perennial favorite, The Marshmallow Game involved eating marshmallows while wearing puffy Goodwill jackets indoors, to avoid turning on the heat. The Flashlight Game was what we played when the electricity went out. We never walked anywhere—we raced. The floor was nearly always lava. The primary purpose of pillows was building forts.
Our longest-lasting game was called I Have A Secret, because my mom said that everyone should always have at least one. Some days she guessed mine. Some days she didn’t. We played every week, right up until I was fifteen and one of her secrets landed her in the hospital.
The next thing I knew, she was gone.
“Your move, princess.” A gravelly voice dragged me back to the present. “I don’t have all day.”
“Not a princess,” I retorted, sliding one of my knights into place. “Your move, old man.”
Harry scowled at me. I didn’t know how old he was, really, and I had no idea how he’d come to be homeless and living in the park where we played chess each morning. I did know that he was a formidable opponent.
“You,” he grumbled, eyeing the board, “are a horrible person.”
Three moves later, I had him. “Checkmate. You know what that means, Harry.”
He gave me a dirty look. “I have to let you buy me breakfast.” Those were the terms of our long-standing bet. When I won, he couldn’t turn down the free meal.
To my credit, I only gloated a little. “It’s good to be queen.”
I made it to school on time but barely. I had a habit of cutting things close. I walked the same tightrope with my grades: How little effort could I put in and still get an A? I wasn’t lazy. I was practical. Picking up an extra shift was worth trading a 98 for a 92.
I was in the middle of drafting an English paper in Spanish class when I was called to the office. Girls like me were supposed to be invisible. We didn’t get summoned for sit-downs with the principal. We made exactly as much trouble as we could afford to make, which in my case was none.
“Avery.” Principal Altman’s greeting was not what one would call warm. “Have a seat.”
He folded his hands on the desk between us. “I assume you know why you’re here.”
Unless this was about the weekly poker game I’d been running in the parking lot to finance Harry’s breakfasts—and sometimes my own—I had no idea what I’d done to draw the administration’s attention. “Sorry,” I said, trying to sound sufficiently meek, “but I don’t.”
Principal Altman let me sit with my response for a moment, then presented me with a stapled packet of paper. “This is the physics test you took yesterday.”
“Okay,” I said. That wasn’t the response he was looking for, but it was all I had. For once, I’d actually studied. I couldn’t imagine I’d done badly enough to merit intervention.
“Mr. Yates graded the tests, Avery. Yours was the only perfect score.”
“Great,” I said, in a deliberate effort to keep myself from saying okay again.
“Not great, young lady. Mr. Yates intentionally creates exams that challenge the abilities of his students. In twenty years, he’s never given a perfect score. Do you see the problem?”
I couldn’t quite bite back my instinctive reply. “A teacher who designs tests most of his students can’t pass?”
Mr. Altman narrowed his eyes. “You’re a good student, Avery. Quite good, given your circumstances. But you don’t exactly have a history of setting the curve.”
That was fair, so why did I feel like he’d gut-punched me?
“I am not without sympathy for your situation,” Principal Altman continued, “but I need you to be straight with me here.” He locked his eyes onto mine. “Were you aware that Mr. Yates keeps copies of all his exams on the cloud?” He thought I’d cheated. He was sitting there, staring me down, and I’d never felt less seen. “I’d like to help you, Avery. You’ve done extremely well, given the hand life has dealt you. I would hate to see any plans you might have for the future derailed.”
“Any plans I might have?” I repeated. If I’d had a different last name, if I’d had a dad who was a dentist and a mom who stayed home, he wouldn’t have acted like the future was something I might have thought about. “I’m a junior,” I gritted out. “I’ll graduate next year with at least two semesters’ worth of college credit. My test scores should put me in scholarship contention at UConn, which has one of the top actuarial science programs in the country.”
Mr. Altman frowned. “Actuarial science?”
“Statistical risk assessment.” It was the closest I could come to double-majoring in poker and math. Besides, it was one of the most employable majors on the planet.
“Are you a fan of calculated risks, Ms. Grambs?”
Like cheating? I couldn’t let myself get any angrier. Instead, I pictured myself playing chess. I marked out the moves in my mind. Girls like me didn’t get to explode. “I didn’t cheat.” I said calmly. “I studied.”
I’d scraped together time—in other classes, between shifts, later at night than I should have stayed up. Knowing that Mr. Yates was infamous for giving impossible tests had made me want to redefine possible. For once, instead of seeing how close I could cut it, I’d wanted to see how far I could go.
And this was what I got for my effort, because girls like me didn’t ace impossible exams.
“I’ll take the test again,” I said, trying not to sound furious, or worse, wounded. “I’ll get the same grade again.”
“And what would you say if I told you that Mr. Yates had prepared a new exam? All new questions, every bit as difficult as the first.”
I didn’t even hesitate. “I’ll take it.”
“That can be arranged tomorrow during third period, but I have to warn you that this will go significantly better for you if—”
Mr. Altman stared at me. “Excuse me?”
Forget sounding meek. Forget being invisible. “I want to take the new exam right here, in your office, right now.”
Rough day?” Libby asked. My sister was seven years older than me and way too empathetic for her own good—or mine.
“I’m fine,” I replied. Recounting my trip to Altman’s office would only have worried her, and until Mr. Yates graded my second test there was nothing anyone could do. I changed the subject. “Tips were good tonight.”
“How good?” Libby’s sense of style resided somewhere between punk and goth, but personality-wise, she was the kind of eternal optimist who believed a hundred-dollar-tip was always just around the corner at a hole-in-the-wall diner where most entrees cost $6.99.
I pressed a wad of crumpled singles into her hand. “Good enough to help make rent.”
Libby tried to hand the money back, but I moved out of reach before she could. “I will throw this cash at you,” she warned sternly.
I shrugged. “I’d dodge.”
“You’re impossible.” Libby grudgingly put the money away, produced a muffin tin out of nowhere, and fixed me with a look. “You will accept this muffin to make it up to me.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I went to take it from her outstretched hand, but then I looked past her to the counter and realized she’d baked more than muffins. There were also cupcakes. I felt my stomach plummet. “Oh no, Lib.”
“It’s not what you think,” Libby promised. She was an apology cupcake baker. A guilty cupcake baker. A please-don’t-be-mad-at-me cupcake baker.
“Not what I think?” I repeated softly. “So he’s not moving back in?”
“It’s going to be different this time,” Libby promised. “And the cupcakes are chocolate!”
“It’s never going to be different,” I said, but if I’d been capable of making her believe that, she’d have believed it already.
Right on cue, Libby’s on-again, off-again boyfriend—who had a fondness for punching walls and extolling his own virtues for not punching Libby—strolled in. He snagged a cupcake off the counter and let his gaze rake over me. “Hey, jailbait.”
“Drake,” Libby said.
“I’m kidding.” Drake smiled. “You know I’m kidding, Libby-mine. You and your sister just need to learn how to take a joke.”
One minute in, and he was already making us the problem. “This is not healthy,” I told Libby. He hadn’t wanted her to take me in—and he’d never stopped punishing her for it.
“This is not your apartment,” Drake shot back.
“Avery’s my sister,” Libby insisted.
“Half sister,” Drake corrected, and then he smiled again. “Joking.”
He wasn’t, but he also wasn’t wrong. Libby and I shared an absent father, but had different moms. We’d only seen each other once or twice a year growing up. No one had expected her to take custody of me two years earlier. She was young. She was barely scraping by. But she was Libby. Loving people was what she did.
“If Drake’s staying here,” I told her quietly, “then I’m not.”
Libby picked up a cupcake and cradled it in her hands. “I’m doing the best I can, Avery.”
She was a people pleaser. Drake liked putting her in the middle. He used me to hurt her.
I couldn’t just wait around for the day he stopped punching walls.
“If you need me,” I told Libby, “I’ll be living in my car.”
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