“Benjy.” I burst into the living room and headed toward the door. “Pack a bag. We’re leaving.”

“What?” He sat up from his spot sprawled out across the couch, his red hair a mess and his eyes bleary. Apparently he’d been napping. “Where are we going?”

“Anywhere, as long as it isn’t here.”

“Kitty—wait.” He jumped up and crossed the room, catching up with me in only a few long strides. “What’s going on? I thought—”

“Knox doesn’t want me here, so I’m not wasting our time and risking our lives.”

He glanced uneasily at the open closet door. Knox would show up at any moment, but if he had a problem with this, too bad. If I wasn’t good enough for him, then he could find another Lila. “We don’t have anywhere to go,” said Benjy. “I know it’s dangerous here, but out there, with Shields hunting us down, we won’t last ten minutes.”

“Yes, we will,” I said firmly. “Sampson and the Blackcoats will help us.”

“Sampson and the Blackcoats will want you to go back so you can keep being Lila.” He touched my cheek. “Kitty, listen, I know it’s been a tough night—”

“It isn’t just tonight,” I said, keeping my voice as steady as possible despite the bubble of urgency rising inside me. “I need to get out of here, Benjy, and I’d rather be running from Shields than imprisoned by Blackcoats.”

“If we stay here, Knox can help us,” he said. “But if we leave—”

“Knox doesn’t want me here. You should’ve heard the things he just said to me, Benjy. He can’t stand me. He’d rather have the real Lila here than me. He thinks I’m a liability and that I can’t be trusted, and maybe—maybe he’s right.” The cold, hard truth of it settled over me until I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t just doing this for myself and Benjy. If I was gone, that was one less thing for Knox to worry about, too. “Please, Benjy. I know it isn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever suggested, but I can’t do this anymore. I want my own life. I want to be me again—I want to be us. And the longer we stay here, the more afraid I am that we’ll never both make it out of here alive.”

Benjy was silent for a long moment, running his fingers through my hair and staring at me without so much as blinking. At last he took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. “Okay,” he said. “We’re in this together, even if that means making a monumental mistake.”

I let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Benjy. It won’t be a mistake.” I hoped. “Get your stuff. I’ll be back in a minute.”

I stood on my tiptoes to give him a quick kiss, and I could feel him watching me as I hurried out the door. It wasn’t fair for me to pull him from his life as a VI, one he’d earned on his own, but I’d meant what I’d said. The longer we stayed here, the better the chances were that one or both of us would wind up dead, and that, above all else, spurred me down the hallway toward my suite.

I opened the door and burst inside, only to stop short. My living room was an exact replica of Knox’s, except instead of navy and wood, mine was made entirely of white. The carpet had been replaced since Augusta had died in front of the fireplace, but I still couldn’t stomach looking at that spot. Unfortunately, right now, someone else was standing only inches away, staring directly at it.

“Greyson,” I said, surprised. I closed the door. “What’s going on?”

Greyson, Daxton’s son and Lila’s cousin, stood on the shag carpet in front of the fireplace, his hands tucked loosely in his pockets. He was tall, but the way he slouched made him look several inches shorter than he was, and his shaggy blond hair fell into his eyes. They were dark, like his father’s, and even though he was almost nineteen, he looked younger than me. If he hadn’t been my almost cousin, I would have thought he was cute, but I was too entrenched in Lila’s head to even think about that now.

“Sorry for intruding,” he said. “I tried knocking, but you weren’t here, so I thought I’d leave it, but then I got distracted, and...”

He trailed off. He didn’t have to say anything else. Other than Celia and Lila, who were now safely hidden in the Blackcoat bunker, Augusta had been the only real family Greyson had left. And I’d been the one to kill her.

“You got me something?” I said. The last time he’d brought me a gift, he’d done so thinking I was Lila. She had been his best friend, and it had taken him all of ten seconds to realize I wasn’t really her. His quiet acceptance, as if her supposed death had been inevitable, had nearly broken my heart. Worse, the perpetual haunted look in Greyson’s eyes never let me forget that I was one more constant reminder of his string of painful losses.

I touched the silver disk hanging from a chain around my neck, the same one he’d still given me even after figuring out I wasn’t Lila. It looked like nothing more than a pretty charm, but when pulled apart the right way, it was a lock pick that could open virtually any lock—including an electronic one. I should have given it to Lila when I found out she was still alive, but selfishly I’d hung on to it.

Greyson nodded, and from behind his back, he produced a small box wrapped in silver paper. “Happy Birthday.”

“You know it’s not really my birthday, right?” I said with a small smile. He shrugged, and my smile faded. Gift or not, he still hadn’t forgiven me for killing Augusta. I crossed the carpet and accepted the present. Unwrapping it carefully, mindful of the beautiful swirling paper, I cracked open the black box underneath, and my eyes widened.

Tags: Aimee Carter The Blackcoat Rebellion Science Fiction
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