“What do you mean?” he murmured as he kissed my hair, now clean thanks to the bathroom that connected to the Augusta Suite. It wasn’t very big, but it had a bathtub deep enough for me to soak in. No matter how hard I scrubbed, however, I never felt as if I’d washed the blood off completely.

“I mean—all these people dying.” I flinched as another spike of muffled gunfire filtered into the room. It grew farther and farther away as the battle raged on, but it was only another reminder that I had dragged countless innocent people into this fight without ever asking if they’d wanted to be involved in the first place. “What if we don’t win?”

“And what if we do?” Benjy’s fingertips danced across my cheek, leaving trails of warmth wherever they went. “What if every single prisoner in Elsewhere is freed because of your bravery?”

“I’m not brave,” I said. “I’m just trying to make sure the wrong people don’t win.”

“Sometimes that’s all bravery is.” He brushed his lips against mine, and I responded in kind automatically. “You’re the bravest person I know, Kitty. You did everything you could to make this happen. Even if we fail, it won’t be because of you. I promise.”

“I don’t deserve you,” I mumbled. He chuckled.

“Probably not, but you’re stuck with me anyway, so you’ll just have to find a way to deal.”

I poked his stomach. “You know what I mean.”

He sobered and slipped his hand underneath my shirt, pressing his hot palm against the small of my back. “What I know is that I love you, and I will do anything to spend the rest of my life with you, no matter how long or short it may be. But I also know how important this war is, and I know how important you are to the war, even if you don’t see it yourself.”

I stared up at him, trying to memorize the look in his eyes. They were full of something I couldn’t name, but I would have happily drowned inside them if it meant being closer to him. “It wouldn’t mean anything if you weren’t there with me.”

“And I will be,” he said. “I always will be. But the things I made you promise—” He shook his head. “You’re not just mine anymore. You never were.”

“I’m always yours. No one else’s.”

He smiled faintly and brushed his lips against mine again. “You’re theirs, too. They need you. Not Lila Hart, but you—Kitty Doe.”

I licked my lips, dried and chapped from all that had happened. “I can’t give them anything they don’t already have.”

“Don’t you see?” He smiled, but it was a wistful smile that made something inside me ache. “You already have. You gave us hope, and you gave us the will to fight. And no matter what happens, no one—not the Prime Minister, not Knox, not even you—can take that from us. Promise me you’ll remember that, okay?”

“Okay,” I said softly, countless thoughts swirling in my mind, each one shattering the moment I tried to touch it. “I love you.”

“And I love you,” he murmured. “More than you could ever possibly know.”

But I did know, and I kissed him again, molding my body against his. “Benjy?”


“There’s no Blackcoat meeting tonight.”

He blinked. “What?”

“And Knox isn’t here. No one’s coming to check on us for hours.”

Benjy frowned. “I don’t understand—”

I cut him off with another kiss, deeper than the one before and filled with every promise we’d ever made one another. “I think it’s about time we get out of these clothes, don’t you?”

At last realization dawned on him, and his eyes widened. “You’re serious? Right now?”

“Right now.”

His mouth opened and shut several times, and he glanced nervously at the door. “But what if—”

“It’s the middle of the night. No one’s coming, and there’s protection in the kit the doctor left us.” I propped myself up on my good arm. “Please, tell me you’re not actually going to fight me on this.”

“No! No, of course not,” he said hastily, and he sat up long enough to pull off his shirt, revealing his bare chest. “See? There. Shirt off.”

I grinned. “That’s it? That’s all I get?”

He looked down at his chest, running his hand over his pale skin and nonexistent abs. “Admittedly it’s not much, but I would’ve thought you of all people wouldn’t get hung up on looks,” he said, though he couldn’t hide the smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“I’ve seen you shirtless before, you jerk.” I pushed myself up and toyed with the hem of my oversize top. “But you haven’t seen what the Harts gave me. They’re a damn sight better than my old ones, you know.”

His expression softened, and he cupped my jaw. “Impossible. You were perfect just the way you were, and you’re perfect now. You always will be.”

I closed the distance between us, leaning in until my forehead rested against his. “You’re wonderful,” I whispered. “And I can’t tell you what that means to me. But don’t you dare pretend you’re not going to enjoy the hell out of these, too.”

He laughed, his low chuckle sending shivers through me, and he slid his hand underneath my shirt again, his fingers creeping upward. “So will you, if I have anything to say about it.”

Tags: Aimee Carter The Blackcoat Rebellion Science Fiction
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