Nightshade Page 92

My throat closed.

“They weren’t chasing us,” he continued. “They were driving us.”

I jumped as a ruddy orange glow poured through the library. Flames burst to life, dancing and weaving in the fireplace. A lone figure stood in front of the roaring fire, his frame outlined by the flickering light. Fear wormed beneath my skin. The shadow cast by the Keeper wasn’t the shape of a man. I didn’t know what it was.

“Very perceptive of you, Shay.” Bosque Mar smiled, his eyes rolled up at the portrait above the mantel. “Your parents would be proud.”

“Uncle Bosque.” Shay’s voice quaked. “You’re here.”

Bosque continue to smile, the play of light and shadow from the undulating fire etching his face into a grotesque mask. The cruelty of his expression made my knees weak.

What is he? I grabbed Shay’s arm, tugging him back.

“I was called back from business,” he said. “It seems things in Vail have gotten a bit out of hand.”

His eyes moved to me, narrowing into slits. “Tell me, Calla. When precisely did you turn my nephew into one of your own kind?”

I forced steel into my voice. “He is not your nephew.”

Bosque’s laugh was like shattering glass. “How very little you understand. You’re a warrior, a leader of warriors.” He took a step forward. “I never expected such foolishness from an alpha Guardian.”

“She isn’t foolish,” Shay said, twining his fingers in mine.

“She belongs to another and she betrayed her own kind. She is the embodiment of rash decisions.” Bosque glanced at our clasped hands and shook his head. “I’m afraid this will not do.”

“Who are you?” Shay managed to keep his voice level, though I could feel his pulse pounding.

“The only family you have left,” Bosque murmured. He glanced at the painting again. Tristan and Sarah’s faces appeared even more sorrowful than when I’d first gazed at the portrait. “I’m the one who knows what’s best for you.”

“You want to kill me,” Shay whispered.

Bosque cocked his head, smiling. “Why would I want to kill my own nephew?”

I gripped Shay’s hand. “Stop it. No more lies. They tied him up! Brought him to be sacrificed at the union. We know about the prophecy, the sacrifice. We read The War of All Against All.”

“I know,” Bosque replied smoothly. “But why do you think we forbid the study of that volume?”

“To protect yourself and the Keepers,” I said. “To keep us from knowing the truth about our past. You’ve enslaved us.”

“No, dear girl. We saved you.” Bosque assumed a pained expression. “Keepers have always been the caretakers of our Guardian soldiers. That book is poison, full of lies produced by the Searchers. It has been circulated by our enemies for centuries in an attempt to seduce others to their wicked cause. We work hard to suppress it because of the harm it can do. And look at what has happened because of it. That text has brought bloodshed to our very doorstep.”

“It wasn’t the book that attacked us!” I shouted. “I don’t even have a name for what came out of those paintings.” I pointed at his bizarre shadow. “Or for you! What are you?”

Bosque’s face darkened, but a second later a placid smile rested on his lips. “I’m sorry if you were frightened, but this exceptional circumstance made it necessary that I gain a captive audience with the two of you. You must listen to reason.”

“Reason?” Shay spat. “I want to know the truth!”

“Of course you do, Shay.” Bosque nodded quickly. “If I’d realized what an independent spirit you’d developed, I would never have put this library off-limits. What else would a bright young man like yourself do but find a way in? Your thirst for knowledge is admirable.”

His smile had the keen edge of a blade. “I blame myself. I still think of you as a little boy. I wanted to protect you from your enemies, but I failed to see how much you’ve grown up. I’ve neglected you, and for that I have much regret.”

Shay’s fingers clutched my hand so tightly it hurt. “Tell me who you really are.”

“I’m your uncle,” Bosque said calmly, walking toward us. “Your own flesh and blood.”

“Who are the Keepers?” Shay asked.

“Others like me, who want only to protect you. To help you,” Bosque replied. “Shay, you are not like other children. You have untapped abilities that you cannot begin to imagine. I can show you who you truly are. Teach you to use the power you have.”

“If you’re so invested in helping Shay, why was he the sacrifice at my union?” I pushed Shay behind me, shielding him from Bosque.

Bosque shook his head. “Another tragic misunderstanding. A test, Calla, of your loyalty to our noble cause. I thought we offered you the best of educations, but perhaps you aren’t familiar with Abraham’s trial with his son Isaac? Isn’t the sacrifice of one you love the ultimate gauge of your faith? Do you really believe we wanted Shay to die at your hands? We’ve asked you to be his protector.”

I began to shake. “You’re lying.”

“Am I?” Bosque smiled, and it almost looked kind. “After all you’ve been through, have you no trust in your masters? You would never have been made to harm Shay—another kill would have been provided in his place at the last moment. I understand such a test may seem too terrible to be fair, too much to ask of you and Renier. Perhaps you are too young to have faced such a trial.”

I couldn’t answer him, suddenly questioning everything I’d done up to this moment, wondering if my own desires had carried me far off course, skewing my ability to see the truth. I didn’t know what to believe.

“I’ve cared for Shay since he was a tiny child. Provided for his every want and need. Surely that proves my concern for his welfare.” Bosque paused a few feet short of us, stretching his arms out to his nephew. “Please, give me your trust.”

The stained glass windows behind Bosque exploded into a shower of multicolored shards. I pushed Shay to the ground and curled my body around his, shielding him from the jagged rain. I threw an arm up to cover my face while the falling glass sheared the fabric of my sweater and sliced my skin.

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