Knox.

VIII

SPY

Knox was here.

Knox was Elsewhere.

After all he’d done to me—after talking me into giving up my freedom, after betraying me to Daxton, after killing Benjy and the last hope I had left for a happy life, he had the nerve to show up here and not even bother to face me.

Rage burned me up from the inside out, leaving nothing but blind hatred in its wake, and the hollowness Benjy’s death had left in my chest filled with a single need:

Make Knox pay.

Without thinking, I pulled myself over the railing separating us from the cage. “Knox!” I screamed, my voice echoing through the crowd. I was going to kill him. I was going to rip him apart with my bare hands until he resembled nothing more than meat at the butcher’s, and then I was going to feed him to the dogs. I’d show him the same mercy he showed Benjy, and for the rest of his pathetically short life, he would regret everything he’d done to him—to us.

Knox looked down from his spot on the rooftop, and he searched the crowd before his eyes locked on mine. A strange expression flickered over his face—surprise I was still alive? Relief there were hundreds of people between us? I couldn’t tell and didn’t care. I would crawl over them if I had to and climb up to that rooftop brick by painted brick. One way or the other, no matter what it cost me, I was going to kill him.

Before I could swing my legs over to the other side of the railing, however, two pairs of hands grabbed my arms and pulled me down. “Are you crazy or just incredibly stupid?” hissed Scotia. “Get yourself killed on your own time, but don’t you dare give Mercer a reason to point that gun at all of us.”

At last I tore my eyes away from Knox. Scotia gripped my arm so tightly that I would have a handprint-shaped bruise in the morning, and Noelle huddled beside her, looking every bit as pale as before. “Knox—that’s Knox,” I said, struggling to get the words out. My tongue had turned to lead, and my lips were numb, making every word a trial. “He—he killed—”

“I don’t care who he killed,” snapped Scotia. “The only thing I care about is Mercer not killing you.”

“Let him,” I choked out, looking back up at the rooftop. Knox had disappeared, but Mercer remained, his eyes fixed on us. A shiver ran down my spine, and I tried to push Scotia’s hand away. Let Mercer kill me.

A bullet to the brain. It would be a relief.

No matter where I was or whose face I wore, my life would always be in the hands of someone else.

“You can’t kill Knox if you’re dead,” said Scotia, her grip tightening. “Play out your little soap opera somewhere else, princess. I’m not interested in being in the line of fire, and neither is Noelle. Now come on, before I have to drag you by the hair.”

With a hard shove, Scotia pushed both of us away from the cage and back toward the bunk, muttering curses under her breath. I stumbled forward, my mind on mute as I stared at the snow beneath my feet. One step after the other, white stained red, and a bullet to the brain. That was all I could think about. But somewhere in the back of my mind, in a portion that was still alive—that was still rational—Scotia’s words settled, taking root.

You can’t kill Knox if you’re dead.

No, I couldn’t. And if I had to stay alive long enough to see it happen, then I would. For Benjy.

I only came to when she shoved us through the door and warmth hit my numb cheeks, causing them to burn. With my bunk nearest the door, the freezing air invaded my space, but I tugged off my coat and threw it down on the stained mattress.

A plan. I needed a plan.

“Who was that man?” said Noelle. Her bunk was only a few down from mine, and while the other girls huddled together at the other end of the room either for warmth or to avoid me, Noelle returned to my side once she’d stripped her own coat off.

“Lennox Creed. Lila’s fiancé,” said Scotia from the doorway to her private room. The curtain must have kept some warmth inside, but she didn’t invite us in even though the icy wind continued to blast through to my bunk as more girls spilled through the doorway.

Noelle gasped. “Your fiancé? He’s here?”

“Former fiancé,” I managed, my teeth chattering now that feeling was returning to my extremities. “He—he was on the roof with Mercer.”

Her eyes widened. “But why do you want to kill him?”

“He killed my b—my best friend,” I said as the quicksand tried to swallow me again. I fought to stay above it. No one else would hold Knox accountable for killing Benjy, but I would make him pay. I had to stay whole and alive until then.

“If he loved you, why would he do that?” said Noelle, her brow furrowing.

“To teach me a lesson.” My throat tightened painfully, threatening to close completely, but I swallowed hard. “I refused to do exactly what he told me to do, so he killed Benjy.” I looked at Noelle, my eyes burning with unshed tears, and I whispered, “He was my Elliott.”

“Oh!” Noelle’s lower lip trembled, and she pulled me into a hug. “I’m so sorry, Lila. That’s...” Her arms tightened around me. “I’m so sorry.”

In the doorway, Scotia remained stoic. “Dying’s a condition of living,” she said. “Everyone does it eventually. There’s no point trying to fight it.”

“If you really believed that, then you wouldn’t still be alive,” I said thickly. “I’m fine dying. I never expected to live this long anyway. But Benjy—he was pure good. He didn’t deserve to die, and if Knox thinks he can get away with it—”

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