Nightshade Page 40

I nodded. “The men who were following us outside the club. They were Searchers.”

He dropped my hand, leaning against the passenger window. “What did they want?”

I hesitated. It didn’t seem fair to tell Shay the Searchers had been hunting him until I knew why.

“I’m not sure.”

He tapped on the glass. “My uncle said they were taken into custody. I thought he called the police.”

“No.” I gripped the steering wheel. “I killed one. The other went to the Keepers for questioning.”

“You killed one of those men?” He shrank against the passenger door.

I glared at him, watching his hand move to the door handle. “I’m a warrior, Shay. That’s what I do.”

He became very still and stared at the book, which sat in his lap. His fear and judgment pricked at me. I crossed my arms over my chest and continued to watch him, my mood darkening with each passing moment.

“Look. I don’t know why you’re here, but it’s clear that the Keepers want you safe. The Searchers may be hunting you, but now you have Guardians and Keepers watching over you. You’re safe enough, but carrying that book around is very dangerous.”

He pulled the text against his chest. “This book is the only source of information that I have about Bosque, who you have just pointed out cannot actually be my uncle. And it might contain all I can learn about you and your kind. I want to know what your world is. I’m part of it now.”

“No.” I loosened my grip on the wheel. “You can’t be part of it. You’re only a human. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

When he didn’t speak, I looked at him. He was watching me, but the fear in his eyes was gone.

“It’s not just about me,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem you know as much as you should about these masters of yours. The witches who rule the world.”

Now it was my turn to stare out the window.

“That’s why I wanted to show you this book,” he said. “I wonder why they used Hobbes for the title.”

I faced him, a cold laugh spilling from my throat. “They didn’t. Hobbes poached the title from the witches.”

“What?” I could tell he didn’t believe me.

I shrugged. “The story, as I’ve been told, is that in earlier centuries the Keepers sometimes kept philosophes in their company as a form of entertainment. Sort of like holding court with the best and brightest of the human world. Hobbes was a particular favorite.”

He leaned forward, interested.


“The Keepers liked Hobbes so much that they told him about their world. Offered to elevate him.”

“Elevate him?”

“Make him one of them. Like turning a human into a Guardian.”

Shay thumbed the book’s pages. “That’s incredible.”

“But the revelations of the Keepers horrified him. He was too invested in the idea of human autonomy. He rejected their offer and began to write against them.”

“Are you saying that Hobbes wrote Leviathan because he had a psychotic break about the existence of witches?” This wasn’t going as well as I’d hoped.

“No, not psychosis. More like spite, or at least major-league denial. Hobbes wrote against witchcraft because he couldn’t accept the reality of the witches’ war. Of how much power the Old Ones do wield on earth.”

Shay winced. “So what did the Keepers do to him?”

“Nothing. Hobbes was like a favorite pet to them who behaved badly. That’s the way they treat all humans,” I said. “Well, I guess they did something. He managed to get under their skin. They’ve made his name a dirty word among our tribes. His books are censored, like you’ve seen. The Keepers can definitely hold a grudge.”

“So the war of all against all isn’t a social theory?”

I tried to offer a sympathetic smile. His world had crumbled to pieces. I knew how he felt. My world didn’t make sense anymore either.

“Hobbes stole the phrase to provoke the Keepers in his diatribes about natural order in human society. As far as I know, that book you have is the history of the world. Our world, not yours. The War of All Against All is the story of the Old Ones, of the Witches’ War.”

“If it’s just history, why aren’t you allowed to read it?” When he spoke, his breath materialized in the cold evening air.

I turned the ignition, fiddling with the heater. “I’ve never asked.”

“Aren’t you curious?”

I kept my eyes on the dashboard, staring into its dull glow. When I finally glanced at Shay, he bounced the tome up and down in a comical dance on his knees.

“Come on, let’s read it together.”

“It’s forbidden.”

Shay didn’t back off. “That’s what makes it interesting,” he teased. “Plus I’m in the middle of your world and don’t know why. Neither do you. Maybe this book will explain it to us.”

I put my hand on his chest, pushing him against the passenger door.

“Listen to me, Shay. The laws in my world are final, punishments severe. I thought I’d made that clear. Forbidden means forbidden. If a Keeper found out that I’d read that book, they would kill me.”

“Like they’d kill you if they knew you saved me from the bear?”

“Exactly. That’s how serious it is.”

“These Keepers sound like model citizens.” He shoved the book in my face, making me shrink back.

“Don’t!” I fisted my hands on my thighs, hating how uneasy I felt. I wanted to know more about my masters, but I was terrified of what it might cost me.

Shay covered one of my hands with his, pulling my fingers out of their tight clench. I shivered when his wrist brushed the bare skin of my leg. “Calla, there’s a map of the cave in this book. It has information that can help us.”

I watched his fingers stroke my palm. “We can’t let anyone know that we’re reading it.”

His hand stilled. “Does anyone from school go to the public library?”

“No,” I said. “We all use the school library.”

“I like the Vail library; it’s much better than the one at the Mountain School. Too many gum-snapping bimbos there more interested in gossip than reading.”

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