The Palace (Chateau #4) by Penelope Sky

But it was the right thing to do.

We inched our way into the camp, and I took a torch from one of the holders on a cabin. The fire was hot against my face, making me extend it farther outward to protect my skin from the burn.

We stood together in the snow, our torches held above us, looking at the clearing and the blood that stained the snow underneath the rope. Raven stared at it for a long time, the fire illuminating her face, showing a cacophony of emotions she could never express with words.

She switched the torch to her other hand when her arm grew tired before she looked at me. “This is for freedom—for all.” She turned away and headed in the direction she’d claimed.

I watched her go, knowing I had to go alone on my own path and do my part. I had to be brave for once in my life. I had to do the right thing. I gripped the wooden torch and turned into the darkness, making my way past the cabins and lighting them on fire, moving quickly, torching everything I could get access to, doing as much damage as possible before the guards realized what was going on.

It didn’t take long.

The girls broke through the windows and fell onto the snow, pulling others out to safety, screaming into the night. Pandemonium took over, the fire rising from all the buildings, bringing a brightness to the camp. It didn’t feel like winter anymore—but blazing summer.

When my work was done, I threw the torch into the snow.

It went out with an audible sizzle. Wisps of smoke started to rise. The snow that had surrounded it immediately melted away from the heat, and now it sank deeper into the powder.

The girls screamed as they ran from the cabins.

“This way!” I ran to the first group and guided them away from the burning cabins and to the main road, which was lit by torches to guide the way. “Follow it to the road!” I continued to run back into the camp, collect more girls, and organize the exodus.

Sometimes, I passed Raven doing the same, directing the women to safety.

When most of the girls were gone, I searched for Raven, knowing we had to run before we got caught.

But she was nowhere in sight. “Raven!” I shouted into the night, over the clamor and screams of the guards, over the loud crackle of the fire because it made a cabin collapse into burning rubble. The smoke was starting to get too thick, making it harder to breathe. “Raven!” We had to get out of there before we were caught or suffocated.

Then I found her.

The executioner had her by the throat, ready to choke her to death right there in the snow. “Raven!” I sprinted to her and noticed another girl coming from a different direction. She jumped onto his back and slammed her fist into the back of his head.

I ran faster, pulled out the knife Raven gave me, and did the bravest thing I’d ever done.

I jumped on him too—and killed him.

I killed someone.

There was no hesitation as I slammed the knife into his back, into his legs, any piece of flesh I could find. All I cared about was my sister, and I would kill anyone who got in between us.

He collapsed, his blood spilling out into the snow.

I dropped the knife, looked at my red hands, and felt disoriented from all the blood. “Raven, are you okay?”

She was already on her feet, sprinting to a collapsed cabin. “Help me!” She stuck her bare hands into the fire and tried to lift the burning wood. Her palms immediately pulled away at the heat, but she tried again anyway.

If she was willing to burn her own hands, someone important was underneath. I rushed to her aid and did the same, grinding my teeth as we lifted the heavy piece of wood a little higher, revealing Magnus underneath.

But the two of us weren’t strong enough.

“Bethany, please.” Raven turned to the blonde who had helped me take down the executioner.

She took one look at Magnus, not showing an ounce of pity.

Raven’s hands were nearly on fire, but she didn’t drop the wood.

I had to pull my hands away because it was too much. I could smell my own burning flesh.

But Raven held her position without me. “Please, Bethany. Please…not him.”

Bethany still looked uncooperative, but she did it anyway.

The three of us lifted the wood off Magnus and pushed it aside.

Bethany and I immediately shoved our hands into the snow to cool the burns to our flesh.

Raven ignored the agony and hooked her arms underneath Magnus and dragged him away from the building, across the snow, and to safety.

Bethany pulled her hands out of the snow, rubbed them together, and then turned to me. “We’ve got to run now. They’re coming.”