Tempting as it was, staying behind meant missing the entire reason I had agreed to put up with this and people like Minister Bradley in the first place. I would have the rest of the night to be alone with Benjy—right now, I wanted to be a Blackcoat. I wanted to do what I was here to do: be the voice of a rebellion that, if successful, would mean Benjy and I would one day have that cottage by the lake. It would mean never looking over our shoulders again, worried someone might see us and catch on to who I really was. It would mean being Kitty Doe again instead of Lila Hart. It would mean finding myself and being the person Benjy saw when he looked at me. The more meetings I missed, the more excuses Knox would have to dismiss my opinions and push me aside. I was here to fight. Not to be his prop or his mouthpiece. And no matter how much he insisted I wasn’t, everything he had done that evening had said otherwise.

I cast a frustrated look at Benjy, and he slipped his hand into mine, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

“It’s probably better if you relax tonight,” he said. “I think you’ll like this new book I bought the other day. I’ll read some of it to you, if you’d like.”

“Enjoy some time with your boyfriend, Kitty,” said Knox. “I’ll be back soon enough. If anyone checks on us, tell them I’m in the shower.”

“Yeah, taking a cold one,” I grumbled. He didn’t rise to the bait, and instead he disappeared into his closet and up through the secret passageway that lay behind it. He’d shown it to me one of my first nights in Somerset, and it was the only safe way we had of leaving the property undetected.

As soon as he shut the door, I stood. “I’m going after him,” I said, tugging down the hem of my dress. Not the outfit I would have chosen, but I didn’t have time to change. “Cover for me.”

Benjy stood as well, reaching out as if to stop me. “Kitty, you heard him—”

I twisted away from his grip. “If it wasn’t for him, we’d have this by now.” I gestured to the napkin sticking out of my dress pocket. “We wouldn’t have to worry about the Harts or the wedding or fireworks driving me crazy. We’d be happy, and we’d never have to think about this nightmare again. Instead, Knox asked me to stay, and I did. Not for him, not for Lila, not for the parties or the jewelry or the private planes, but because of this.” I jabbed my finger toward the closet. “If I’m not there, then what’s the point of doing any of this anymore? I’m not his property, and he doesn’t control me. I’m not letting him leave me behind.”

Benjy sighed, but at least he didn’t argue. “Then I’ll go with you.”

“Someone has to stay behind and make sure no one finds out we’re gone,” I said. He opened his mouth to protest, but I cut him off. “Please, Benjy. It’ll be safer if it’s just me anyway.”

He gritted his teeth, and a muscle in his jaw twitched. “Okay. Just—be careful. And here, take this.”

He shrugged off his suit jacket and draped it over my shoulders. I slipped my arms inside the sleeves, the fabric warm from his body. “Thanks,” I said, softening. “Make sure no one discovers we’re gone, all right?”

“I’m sure I’ll figure something out,” said Benjy, scowling. I stood on my tiptoes and kissed him.

“I love you. When I get back, I’m yours for the rest of the night. Okay?”

He nodded, and without giving him another chance to talk me out of it, I stepped inside the closet. Knox may have thought he owned Lila, but I wasn’t her. Tonight, I was Kitty Doe again, and I wasn’t going down without a fight.



The passageway above the fourth floor was as dusty and dirty as ever. Without a flashlight, I was plunged into darkness, and even after my eyes adjusted to what little moonlight filtered in, I couldn’t see more than a few inches in front of me. Cobwebs caught my hair and cheeks, and once I thought I felt a spider running down the back of my dress, but I forced myself to stay calm and move forward. I’d taken this route a dozen times before. I could do this.

At last I found the staircase that led downward, and from then on out, it was only a matter of not tripping. The heels I wore made that more difficult than it should have been, and twice I had to catch myself on the wooden bannister. By the time the creaky steps turned into the dirt tunnel underneath the grounds of Somerset, I’d collected two splinters in my palm, and I was fervently wishing I’d stopped long enough to grab a pair of boots.

The tunnel was pitch-black. I ran a hand across the dirt wall to guide me, keeping my ears peeled for any sign of Knox. But I would have seen the light from his flashlight if he was still in the tunnel, and satisfied that I was alone, I picked up the pace. I had no guarantee I’d be able to slip into the bunker undetected. By now the guards knew me, but I didn’t have the codes, and I’d have to catch up to Knox if I wanted access. Even then, it was entirely possible he’d tell me to go home, though if he thought I would listen after his little speech in the suite—

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

A hand clamped over my wrist, tugging me away from the wall, and I swore loudly enough that they probably heard it back in Somerset. Yanking my arm away, I thrashed wildly in the darkness. “Let—me—go!”

Light flooded the tunnel, and Knox stood with his free hand still wrapped bruisingly around my wrist. “Not until you answer my question.”

Tags: Aimee Carter The Blackcoat Rebellion Science Fiction
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