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The Gender Game 4: The Gender War

Bella Forrest

Nightlight Press









































Also by Bella Forrest

Copyright © 2017 by Bella Forrest

Nightlight Press

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.




I prowled my cell like a caged animal. The blank white walls and iron bars stared back as I paced blindly, seething with rage. Nothing could excuse my disgusting lack of foresight. My head still throbbed where the Matrian warden had knocked me out with the butt of her rifle as I’d resisted arrest—I hadn’t foreseen even as simple an act of brutality as that. Looking back, it was obvious the Matrians would have been suspicious of Violet and me. I had seriously misjudged the situation. And now I, and the woman I loved more than anything, were going to pay the price for it.

Unless I could find a way to get out.

I had to put aside the rage that was bringing my blood to a fine boil just under my skin, and think. Sitting down on the cell’s narrow bench—its only comfort—I tried to forget about all the events that had brought me here. I needed that baggage out of the way so I could work on a way to escape.

When I’d been a warden of Patrus, clearing my head had been easy, even normal for the days I’d spent ignoring my feelings, scraping by in the dull everyday routine. But since Violet, I’d been getting used to having a direction and a purpose in my life again… and a choice. So I was having a hard time letting all of this go.

At first, I’d thought our arrest was due to the natural confusion and panic over the realization of a possible bombing. However, we had defused the bomb, saving the queen’s life. There had been witnesses, both on the balcony and down below, who could testify that I had wrestled the bag away from the determined terrorist, and that Violet had disarmed it.

So the violence and doubt we had been met with was almost unbelievable, certainly unjust.

My hands clenched of their own volition—a martial arts reflex—and I stared down into my lap, where silver links of handcuffs were digging into the flesh of my hands. This was my first obstacle, and it wasn’t impossible. I had learned all sorts of creative and fun ways to get out of handcuffs as a warden, and this type was the easiest to circumvent—all I needed was something slim, preferably metallic, and I’d be out of them in moments.

Easier said than done, when the room was nothing but a set of bars and three stone walls.

And a bench, I reminded myself, looking down at it.

Spreading my legs a little wider, I bent at the waist to peer at the shadowed area under the bench, studying how it had been installed. As I had hoped, the bench wasn’t built into the wall, the screws covered up by plaster and stone—it was held up by flimsy metal supports that angled up and bolted to the wall and the underside of the bench. Inside it, the screws were visible, the little round heads set into their grooves.

I smiled in spite of everything. A screw would be a bit big, but I just needed the tip of it. Getting one out of the wall, however, was another story.

I looked down at my clothes and fumbled for my belt, remembering that Violet had told me she’d used a dog collar as a makeshift screwdriver. My girl was nothing if not inventive.

Thinking of Violet sent a thread of fear through me. I hadn’t seen her since they’d separated us hours ago… and I wasn’t sure how long I’d been unconscious before waking up and being dragged by four women through the corridors of the queen’s prison to this cell. If it weren’t for the fact that we had been treated so violently, I would have believed this was just standard procedure. I knew Violet was still wanted, wrongly charged for the murder of Queen Rina, but I would have assumed our actions would at least buy us some consideration.

Unless, of course, we were being played. Which I was strongly beginning to suspect. But in what way? I considered the possibility that Queen Elena bore Violet some grudge regarding her mother. Yet, if she were a reasonable human, she would have heard Violet out, especially seeing as the both of us had saved her life—and the lives of countless others.

Which made me return to the feeling that something was going seriously wrong. I’d been here too long without a chance to make a statement or plead my case, and when the female wardens looked at me, I didn’t see any trace of sympathy or mercy in their eyes. I saw anger. Unbridled and raw. They could be doing anything to Violet.

Unless they had decided she was more trouble than she was worth and just executed her by injection, as was standard protocol in Matrus.

My heart lurched at the thought, like a top suddenly thrown off balance and sent skittering across the floor. I wouldn’t accept that possibility. Not now, not ever. Violet and I had been through too much for me to believe that there was no chance I could save her.

I had to believe that they wanted her alive, at least for now. That I still had time to get her out of this. And with whatever was going on, it would be better to act first and beg forgiveness later.

Sliding the belt through the loop of my pants, using my wrists more than my hands, I lay on my side next to the bench and began poking the buckle’s metal prong into the

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