Home > The Elite (The Selection #2)(4)

The Elite (The Selection #2)(4)
Author: Kiera Cass

“What are these?” Maxon asked, brushing across the tips of my fingers as we walked.

“Calluses. They’re from pressing down on violin strings four hours a day.”

“I’ve never noticed them before.”

“Do they bother you?” I was the lowest caste of the six girls left, and I doubted any of them had hands like mine.

Maxon stopped moving and lifted my fingers to his lips, kissing the tiny, worn tips.

“On the contrary. I find them rather beautiful.” I felt myself blush. “I’ve seen the world—admittedly mostly through bulletproof glass or from the tower of some ancient castle—but I’ve seen it. And I have access to the answers of a thousand questions at my disposal. But this small hand here?” He looked deeply into my eyes. “This hand makes sounds incomparable to anything I’ve ever heard. Sometimes I think I only dreamed that I heard you play the violin, it was so beautiful. These calluses are proof that it was real.”

At times the way he spoke to me was overwhelming, too romantic to believe. But though I cherished the words in my heart, I was never completely sure I could trust them. How did I know he wasn’t saying such sweet things to the other girls? I had to change the subject.

“Do you really have the answers to a thousand questions?”

“Absolutely. Ask me anything; and if I don’t know the answer, I know where we can find it.”



It was tough to come up with a question on the spot, much less one that would stump him, which was what I wanted. I took a moment to think of the things I’d been most curious about when I was growing up. How planes flew. What the United States used to be like. How the tiny music players that the upper castes had worked.

And then it hit me.

“What’s Halloween?” I asked.

“Halloween?” Clearly, he’d never heard of it. I wasn’t surprised. I’d only seen the word once myself in an old history book my parents had. Some parts of that book were tattered beyond recognition, with pages missing or mostly destroyed. Still, I was always fascinated by the mention of a holiday we knew nothing about.

“Not so certain now, Your Royal Smartness?” I teased.

He made a face at me though it was clear he was only playing at being annoyed. He checked his watch and sucked in a breath.

“Come with me. We have to hurry,” he said, grabbing my hand and launching himself into a run.

I stumbled a bit in my little heels, but I kept up pretty well as he led me back to the palace with a huge grin on his face. I loved when Maxon’s carefree side came through; too often he was so serious.

“Gentlemen,” he said as we raced past the guards by the door.

I made it halfway down the hall before my shoes got the better of me. “Maxon, stop!” I gasped. “I can’t keep up!”

“Come on, come on, you’re going to love this,” he complained, tugging my arm as I slowed. He finally eased back to my pace but was obviously itching to move faster.

We headed toward the north corridor, near the area where the Reports were filmed, but ducked into a stairwell before we got that far. We went up and up, and I couldn’t contain my curiosity.

“Where are we going exactly?”

He turned and faced me, immediately serious. “You have to swear never to reveal this little chamber. Only a few members of the family and a handful of the guards even know it exists.”

I was beyond intrigued. “Absolutely.”

We reached the top of the stairs, and Maxon held open the door for me. He took my hand again and pulled me down the hallway, finally stopping in front of a wall that was mostly covered by a magnificent painting. Maxon looked behind us to make sure no one was there, then reached behind the frame on the far side. I heard a faint click, and the painting swung toward us.

I gasped. Maxon grinned.

Behind the painting was a door that didn’t go all the way to the ground and had a small keypad on it, like the kind on a telephone. Maxon punched in a few numbers and then a tiny beep sounded. He turned the handle as he looked back to me.

“Let me help you. It’s quite a high step.” He gave me his hand and gestured for me to walk in first.

I was shocked.

The windowless room was covered with shelves full of what appeared to be ancient books. Two of the shelves contained books that had curious red slashes on the bindings, and I saw a massive atlas against one wall, opened to a page that held the shape of some country I couldn’t name. In the middle was a table with a handful of books on it, looking as if they’d been handled recently and left out for quick recovery. And finally, embedded in one wall was a wide screen that looked like a TV.

“What do the red slashes mean?” I asked in wonder.

“Those are banned books. As far as we know, they may be the only copies that still exist in all of Illéa.”

I turned to him, asking with my eyes what I didn’t dare say out loud.

“Yes, you can look at them,” he said in a manner that implied I was putting him out but with an expression that said he had been hoping I’d ask.

I lifted one of the books carefully, terrified that I might accidentally destroy a one-of-a-kind treasure. I flipped through the pages but ended up setting it back down almost immediately. I was simply too awestruck.

I turned around to find Maxon typing on something that looked like a flat typewriter attached to the TV screen.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“A computer. Have you never seen one?” I shook my head, and Maxon didn’t seem too surprised. “Not many people have them anymore. This one is specifically for the information held in this room. If anything about your Halloween exists, this will tell us where it is.”

I wasn’t fully sure of what he was saying, but I didn’t ask him to clarify. In a few seconds his hunt produced a three-bullet list on the screen.

“Oh, excellent!” he exclaimed. “Wait right there.”

I stood by the table as Maxon found the three books that would reveal what Halloween was. I hoped it wasn’t something stupid and that I hadn’t made him go through all this effort for nothing.

The first book defined Halloween as a Celtic festival that marked the end of summer. Not wanting to slow us, I didn’t bother mentioning I had no idea what a Celtic was. It said they believed that spirits passed in and out of the world on Halloween, and people would put on masks to ward off the evil ones. Later, it evolved into a secular holiday, mainly for children. They dressed up in costumes and went around their towns singing songs and were rewarded with candy, creating the saying “trick or treat,” as they did a trick to get a treat.

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