“Did I or did I not tell you not to go after the codes?”

I faltered. “If I hadn’t—”

“I would have found a way,” he said. “Sometimes you need to trust me, Kitty.”

“I would, if you ever stopped using me like another piece in your damn game,” I said. “I’m not your toy, and until you start trusting me, there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to trust you.”

Knox sighed, and he reached into a drawer, pulling out the picture frame Greyson had given me. “Here. I thought you might want this back.”

I took it, gazing down at Greyson’s face. No matter how this ended, his life would be another casualty of war one way or the other. “Did you know the whole time?” I said, the words sticking in my throat.

“Did I know what?”

“That Greyson and I—” I swallowed hard. “Did you know the real Daxton was my father?”

Knox grimaced, and he folded his hands. “No.”

“Why didn’t you tell me after you found my file?” I said. “I had a right to know.”

“You did,” he agreed. “And I would have if things hadn’t happened the way they did. But who your father is—it was never important.”

“It was important to me. Even if I never tell you where the impostor’s file is, holding back something like this—you should have told me.”

He rubbed his eyes wearily. “Yes. Probably. But you know now, and that isn’t the reason I called you here anyway.”

“Then what is?” I said. “I know we won the battle. I’m pretty sure the entire country does by now.”

“We won the battle, but we haven’t won the war,” he said. In the background a newscaster flashed a picture of Knox across the screen. There was no going back for either of us now. “We have the weapons, but Daxton still has the Ministers and the military on his side. This is an uphill battle, and I need people I can trust. People I can depend on.”

“I’ve risked my life for you so many times that I’ve lost count.”

“And I’m grateful for it, but right now, I need teamwork and respect, not willful disobedience whenever you don’t agree with my decisions. I need an army, Kitty. Not someone who’s unreliable and doesn’t listen.”

“I—” I stared at him. “If you just trusted me and told me things—”

“But I don’t,” he said. “Not yet. Maybe not ever at this rate. I’m keeping my promise to you. You and Benjy will be shipped off with Hannah, and the three of you will remain in a safe, undisclosed location for the rest of the war. No one will find you there, I promise, and once it’s over, you’ll live the rest of your lives in peace. Isn’t that exactly what you wanted?”

It was. Peace, a life with Benjy, a chance to know my biological mother—he was giving me a future, one I would never have otherwise. But my mind drifted to the conversation I’d had with Benjy in the dead of night as we listened to the sounds of war and death, and before I could stop myself, I blurted, “No.”

“No?” He raised an eyebrow. “I’m only going to make this offer once. If you refuse—”

“I’m not going anywhere. Whether you like it or not, these people need me. And I’m never going to earn my freedom by letting others die for me instead. I’ve done enough of that already.”

His mouth formed a grim line. “Kitty—”

“Why are you doing this?” I blurted. “You’re the son of a Minister. You’re a VI. You were going to live in a mansion. You were going to marry Lila Hart. You were going to be one of the most powerful people in the entire country. Why bother supporting the Blackcoats at all, let alone leading them and throwing away your future?” I paused. “Are you really in love with Lila? Is that it?”

Several long seconds passed, and finally Knox sighed. “People like you hold their loved ones above ideals. They’ll do anything to protect them, no matter what it costs. But me—I hold ideals above people. No single life is as important as this revolution, not even mine.”

“Why?” I said again. “People don’t just wake up one day and decide to lead a rebellion.”

“Sometimes they do,” he said quietly, “but that’s a story for another time. I need you gone, Kitty.”

“And I already told you, I’m staying.” I twisted around, sweeping aside my hair to show him the X scarred into my skin. “You see this?”

“Yes,” he said, and I turned back to face him.

“I’m one of them now. There is no hiding, and there is no going back. I’m not giving up just because you’re too proud and arrogant to trust me. I know these people better than you ever will, and like it or not—”

A tone on the television cut me off, and both Knox and I focused on the monitor. The camera switched to a live feed inside Somerset, where an empty podium stood.

Knox swore. “I was wondering when Daxton was going to address the public,” he muttered, and he pushed a button on the monitor to record the speech.

But instead of Daxton stepping up, a girl with wheat-blond hair and eyes the color of the ocean stepped into view.

The real Lila Hart.

“What—” I started, but Knox shushed me, and I fell silent.

“Good afternoon,” she said in a voice I could mimic in my sleep. “As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the restricted territory known as Elsewhere has fallen into the hands of a violent terrorist organization known as the Blackcoats, led by my mother, Celia Hart, and my former fiancé, Lennox Creed.”

Tags: Aimee Carter The Blackcoat Rebellion Science Fiction
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