“I don’t know,” sobbed Hannah. “I don’t know.”

“You do know—you know exactly what’s going on. You’ve known the whole time, haven’t you?”

“Of course not! How could you even think—”

“Don’t lie to me.”

The unmistakable sound of a slap echoed down the hallway, followed by silence. I tiptoed past Knox’s room. The door to the Augusta Suite was ajar, and I peeked inside.

Hannah sat at the foot of the pink-and-gold bed, her knees drawn to her chest as she quietly sobbed. This close, I could see half a dozen bloody gashes running across her face, and one of her eyes was swollen shut. Mercer stood over her, wielding a butcher’s knife.

Fury boiled inside my veins, and I gripped my gun. One shot. That was all it would take.

But as I raised the weapon, a shout echoed from the foyer, and a door slammed shut. “Mercer!” called a booming voice.

Mercer looked up, and I only barely managed to duck out of the doorway. “Up here,” he called, and added in a mutter, “This better be important.”

I darted into the second stairwell, the one that led to the back of the house, and crouched low. Heavy footsteps thudded against the carpeted hallway as someone came running, breathing heavily.

“Sir,” he said, his voice much closer now. I hid my head between my knees, praying he didn’t come down this way. “We have her.”

I frowned. They couldn’t have been talking about me, so who—

My breath caught in my throat.


“It’s about time,” said Mercer. “Watch my wife. If she tries to escape, kill her.”

I listened as Mercer strode down the hallway in the opposite direction, toward the foyer instead of the stairway where I was hiding. I waited until the front door opened and shut, and then, once I was as sure as I could be that Mercer was gone, I rose and crept back down the hall.

The door to the Augusta Suite was wide-open now, and a guard stood in the doorway facing Hannah, his feet planted a shoulder width apart as he clutched his rifle. I sneaked closer, my footsteps silent as I came up behind the guard and peeked into the room.

Hannah sat on the bed, and her feet brushed the carpet as she stared off into the distance, her expression unreadable. I didn’t wait for her to see me. Taking a third syringe, I stabbed the guard in the neck and dosed him. Once again, he fell to the ground, and I jumped over him.

“Are you okay?” I said, hurrying over to Hannah. She scrambled to her feet, her mouth hanging open.

“Lila—Kitty?” she said, stunned, and she wrapped her arms around me in a tight embrace. “It’s really you? Jonathan said—I thought you were dead.”

So they had been talking about Scotia. My determination turned to steel, and I hugged back before letting go. “I’m fine,” I said. “Are you okay?”

“It’s nothing. Just a few scratches.”

The slashes across her face were anything but scratches. I didn’t need to know much about medicine to know they would need stitches. “We need to get you someplace safe. Can you walk?”

“They know about the tunnel,” she said, and she bent down to pick up the guard’s rifle. “We were going to use it to escape, but Jonathan saw the smashed cabinet, and he thought there was an ambush waiting.”

“If you put on a jumpsuit, they won’t hurt you,” I said. “Come on, let’s get you downstairs.”

Using the back staircase, we slowly made our way down to the kitchen, where I fished my jumpsuit from the night before out of the trash. It was small on Hannah, but she managed to fit it over her clothes. “What about you?” she said.

“I’m not going with you.”

“Yes, you are.” Her fingers wrapped around my wrist, as if chaining herself to me. I shook my head.

“I have to take care of something. I’ll be along as soon as it’s over.”


“If you want to keep me safe, then you’ll take that rifle, and you’ll make sure the people in the tunnel get to safety,” I said. “There’s a boy, Benjy—the one in the cage with me. He’s bringing up the rear. Tell him Kitty said to trust you.”

Her blue eyes watered, and she stared at me. “I won’t be able to live with myself if anything happens to you.”

“And I won’t be able to live with myself if anything happens to you or Benjy. Now, please—before they figure out you’re gone.”

Hannah’s mouth formed a thin line, and she caught me in another hug. “Don’t you dare die before I get the chance to know you,” she said, her voice breaking.

“I’ll do my best,” I promised, but that was all I could manage right now.

At last she released me and headed toward the cellar without another word. Once I was sure she was gone, I crept into the foyer and pushed open the front door, my weapon drawn. I had no plan and no idea what was out there—but Benjy and I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for Scotia, and if there was anything I could do to help her, I owed her that much.

Even from the porch, I could see a crowd gathered on the street in front of Mercer Manor. Taking a breath, I sneaked down the steps and toward a nearby tree. Tracks zigzagged across the snow, and I was careful to step in them, not leaving any trace I was there.

“This is what rebellion looks like!” Mercer’s voice cut through the cold air, and I peered around the massive tree trunk. From my vantage point, I spotted Mercer standing on a makeshift platform in front of the gate, surrounded by a small army of guards. And in front of them—

Tags: Aimee Carter The Blackcoat Rebellion Science Fiction
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