As quietly as I could, I pushed the end table underneath the vent. Using the shelves on the bookcase, I climbed up and pushed the grate out of place. It had been weeks since I’d done this, but before becoming Lila, I’d been an expert at sneaking in and out of tight spaces—namely the maze of sewers underneath the Heights, the poorest corner of the city. Somerset was less than twenty miles away, but they couldn’t have been more different.

I crawled through the metal vent, making sure to nudge the grate back into place. It wouldn’t take long for Knox to figure out what I’d done once he grew tired of waiting for me, but he was too big to follow, and he’d have no way of guessing where I was going. For now, all I could do was move as quickly as possible and hope to hell Daxton was asleep.

Fifteen minutes later, I peered down through the metal slats and into Daxton’s office. The lights were dim, and I could hear the distant trickling of water from the fountain near his doorway. The screen on his desk was dark, but I wouldn’t need it. If Greyson had dug up a photograph, there must have been more to find than a few computer files I wouldn’t be able to read anyway.

I dropped down into his office, wincing as my heavy combat boots thudded against the wooden floor. I stood still for the space of several heartbeats, waiting for a sign someone had heard me.


Gliding across the floor, careful not to make another sound, I searched for anything that might have held a file Daxton wanted to keep hidden. His desk was the most obvious place, but when I tried to open the drawers, they were locked. Unclasping my necklace, I unfolded the lock pick and had each open within seconds; however, they held nothing more than official-looking papers I couldn’t read, all bearing the Hart family crest. In one, a half-empty bottle of what looked like whiskey sat hidden underneath a false bottom—the same kind I’d used to hide my few possessions at my group home—but no matter how hard I searched, I couldn’t find anything that looked like it might have hidden the secrets to Daxton’s real identity.

I straightened and looked around. The walls of his large office were covered ceiling to floor in bookshelves, each one fuller than the last. The ones closest to the door looked neat and organized, as if they hadn’t been touched in years. The closer they got to the desk, however, the more disorganized and cluttered they became. Was it possible he’d hidden something in a book?

No—I wasn’t thinking about this the right way. Daxton would never leave something like that out where anyone could accidentally run across it. He would put it someplace hidden, but secure. Someplace no one would dare to look. Someplace only he would have access to.

Which meant it had to be in this office. After my little stunt trying to kill him, he was the only one with access, even though he pretended he’d lost the memory of that incident. No one else had been allowed in his office without his personal guards present, not even Greyson. This was his most private room in Somerset. If the evidence still existed, it was in here.

I began to touch everything. The chairs, the couches, the fireplace, the lamps, the end tables—nothing in the office got past my hands. But the harder I looked, the less confident I became. Just because I would have kept some sentimental token of my past didn’t mean he would. What if he really had destroyed it? Then what chance would the Blackcoats have of gaining the support of the Shields and the Ministers of the—


I stilled. My hand rested on the gold frame of the Hart family portrait painted a year earlier, before the deaths of the real Daxton, along with his wife and elder son. On the very edge, where the portrait met the wall, there was a sliver of space that hadn’t been there before. Underneath my thumb, I spotted a tiny button that blended in perfectly with the frame.

My heart sped up as I nudged the frame open. Surely enough, the massive portrait concealed a steel safe—or at least I thought it was a safe. For all intents and purposes, it looked like a square sheet of metal imbedded into the wall. There was no dial, no number pad, nothing.

I searched for any sign of how to open it, but once again, nothing. That made things difficult. Frowning, I brushed my fingertips against the metal, feeling for any slight indents that might give me a clue.

Instantly blue light appeared, forming a square in the center of the safe. I waited for something else to happen, but the blue square didn’t change. Did it want a handprint? No symbols had appeared, and a handprint was the only thing that would reasonably fit in that square.

It didn’t matter what it wanted. My handprint was Lila’s now, and somehow I doubted Daxton would have granted her access to whatever was inside the safe. I clasped my necklace so hard that it left indents in my palm. Time to see how good Greyson really was.

I passed the silver disk in front of the sensor and held my breath. If it didn’t work, would the sensor just ignore my attempt to break in, or would half of Somerset be alerted? I glanced at the opening in the ceiling. It would take me several precious seconds to scale the bookshelves and make it up there. If there were guards outside waiting, or if Daxton was anywhere nearby—

The light changed from blue to white, and to my astonishment, the safe popped open. Apparently Greyson was that good after all. I opened the door and, with trembling fingers, removed the collection of a dozen files inside.

Several of them were nothing but papers I couldn’t read and maps of places I had never been. Another was what looked like a report detailing the car explosion that had killed the real Daxton and his family, leaving Greyson alone. But as interesting as they might have been, it was the thickest folder that I cared about.

Tags: Aimee Carter The Blackcoat Rebellion Science Fiction