Queen (The Blackcoat Rebellion #3)

Written By: Aimée Carter

Queen (The Blackcoat Rebellion #3) by Aimée Carter





For Matrice


Aimée Carter was born and raised in Michigan, where she currently resides. She started writing at age eleven and later attended the University of Michigan, graduating with a degree in screen arts and cultures. Aimée is the author of The Goddess Test series of fantasy novels and the dystopian trilogy The Blackcoat Rebellion. Catch updates on her website, www.aimeecarter.com, and through Facebook, or Tweet her: @Aimee_Carter.





I

Speak

I gazed out across the gathering crowd, my heart in my throat. The citizens of Elsewhere shifted restlessly, their red and orange jumpsuits bringing color to an otherwise gray winter landscape, and I could feel them growing impatient.

They weren’t the only ones.

“Knox, everyone’s waiting,” I said from my corner of the stage the Blackcoats had constructed over the past several days. It was made of whatever materials they’d been able to salvage from the buildings that had been destroyedduring the Battle of Elsewhere. Two weeks later, they were still pulling bodies from the wreckage.

Knox Creed, one of the leaders of the Blackcoat Rebellion—and my former fake fiancé—looked up from his spot at the base of the stairs. His forehead was furrowed, and the annoyance on his face was unmistakable. “I’m aware, thank you,” he said. “There’s only so much I can do to hurry things along.”

I hopped down the steps to join him and the other Blackcoats who lingered nearby. He’d made no secret of his distaste for my less-than-obedient attitude, and though I’d done my best to play by the rules after the battle ended,we were still on shaky ground. I wasn’t so sure our friendship would ever be mended completely, no matter how the rebellion turned out. But right now, we both had more important things to worry about: he had a rebellion to lead, and I had a speech to give. As soon as the cameras were ready for me.

“Benjy said the test run this morning went fine,” I said. “Is there a problem now?”

“There’s always a problem,” said Knox. Turning away from me, he spoke into a cuff on his wrist. “What’s the holdup?”

I waited in silence as he listened to the reply in his earpiece. He muttered what sounded like a curse, and it was my turn to frown. “How much longer?”

“They’re having trouble breaking through the network’s security,” he said. “Something about encryptions and passcodes.”

In other words, nothing I could help with. Or Knox, for that matter. “Why don’t we just record the speech and broadcast it once they’ve found a way around it? Wouldn’t that be easier?”

“If it comes to that, we will, but we can give them a few more minutes.” As if realizing for the first time that I was standing next to him, he did a double take, his dark eyes looking me up and down. “Did you bathe?”

I blinked. “Are you joking? I spent an hour letting them do my hair and makeup.”

“What did they do, stare at you the entire time?” He ran his fingers through my hair in an attempt to do—something. I didn’t know what. “You look nothing like Lila anymore.”

Lila Hart—one of the founders of the Blackcoats, who also happened to be Prime Minister Daxton Hart’s niece. Four months ago, on my seventeenth birthday, I’d been kidnapped and surgically transformed to look exactly like her in order to take her place. She had been Knox’s real fiancée. I was only playing the part.

But now, after the dust had settled, the entire world knew there were two of us. Lila was working for Daxton, who had to be holding something over her. Whatever it was must have been a matter of life or death, because the LilaHart I knew, while not particularly brave, would have never openly supported the government that had murdered her father and turned her mother into a fugitive rebel. Not like this. Not unless there was a gun to her head—or someone else’s.

There was little we could do about Lila’s sudden change in allegiance now, though, and in the meantime, I was working for Knox and the Blackcoats. He had plenty to hold over me, but none of it mattered, because Knox didn’t want me here. I was in Elsewhere because I wanted to be. I was about to speak in front of countless Americans because it was the right thing to do. And no matter how many times he tried to intimidate me into leaving, nothing would make me change my mind.

“I look exactly like Lila, and everyone in this damn place knows it,” I said firmly. “You’re just beginning to see the differences more clearly. There were two boys in my group home—they were identical twins, and no one could tell them apart at first. But the more we got to know them, the easier—”

“You can spare me. I know how telling twins apart works.” His scowl deepened, and I wondered what I’d said to upset him. But it was gone as soon as it came, and someone must have talked in his ear, because he stopped fussing with my hair and touched the piece. “All right. Kitty—they’re ready for you. Remember your talking points, and for once, would you please stick to them?”

I shook my hair out, letting the shoulder-length blond bob fall wherever it wanted. “Do I get to tell my version of events, or yours?”

“I want you to tell the truth,” he said. “The entire truth. We can’t afford lies and misdirection anymore, not when Lila and Daxton are the ones feeding them directly to the people.”

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