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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
Vivian grabbed the black leather reins attached to the harness on the creature’s back and slapped them down hard.
Even as I scrambled to my feet, I knew I was going to be too late to stop her from getting away—again.
“Fly!” This time, it was Vivian screaming the word instead of me. “Fly! Fly! Fly!”
The Black roc let out a loud screech, pumped its wings once, and zoomed up into the sky, taking Vivian and Agrona with it.
All I could do was stand there and watch the Black roc grow smaller and smaller as it flew away. I let out a vicious curse, but that wouldn’t bring back Vivian, Agrona, and the roc. Nothing would—
A hand touched my shoulder. I whipped around and raised Vic, thinking that one of the Reapers was getting ready to punch me in the face or ram his sword into my chest. But it was only Grandma Frost standing behind me. I let out a breath, lowered Vic, then reached forward with my free arm and hugged her tight.
Her arms wrapped around me, hugging me back even tighter, and I felt a wave of love and concern wash over me. I drew back.
“Are you okay?” I asked, scanning her face.
She nodded. “Fine. Just a little shaken up from the crash. How about you, pumpkin?”
“I have a few bumps and bruises from the wreck, Reapers, and rocs, but that’s all. Let’s go check on the others.”
By this point, the battle was over, and Aiko was helping the other members of the Protectorate round up the few Reapers who hadn’t been killed. I hurried over to Oliver, who was sitting on the back bumper of the artifacts van. Like me, he was covered with cuts, blood, and bruises from the fight. In front of him, Linus and Inari were crouching over the dead Reapers and murmuring softly to each other. They too had taken a few licks during the crash and subsequent battle, but all three of them seemed to be more or less in one piece.
“Are you guys all right?” I called out.
Oliver nodded and waved his hand at me, so I ran over to the smashed SUV, the one that I’d been riding in. By this point, Sergei and Logan had both gotten out of the vehicle and were sitting on the pavement a few feet away. Blood and bruises covered their faces from where the windows had shattered and the flying glass had sliced into their skin, and they both sat stiffly, each with one hand braced on the ground for support, as if it hurt to be fully upright. Alexei was kneeling by Sergei’s side, speaking softly to his dad in Russian.
I dropped down in front of Logan. “Are you okay?” He smiled at me, despite the blood on his face. “I’ll
live, Gypsy girl. Don’t worry. It’s only a few cuts. Besides, it was worth it to see the look on Vivian and Agrona’s faces when you made those rocs run right into the middle of all those Reapers.”
“You saw that?”
He nodded. “Through the windshield. My seat belt was stuck, or I would have come and helped you fight Vivian and Agrona.”
He started to push himself up and onto his feet, but the motion caused more blood to well up out of the deep, jagged cut on his forehead and dribble down into his eyes. I unzipped my coat and used Vic to cut off the bottom part of my sweater. I held the fabric up to Logan’s forehead.
“Stay still,” I commanded. “Don’t try to move.”
His lips quirked up into another smile, but pain glinted in his eyes. “Yes, ma’am.”
I stayed by Logan’s side, keeping pressure on the wound and trying to get the bleeding to stop. All around me, the members of the Protectorate moved through the Reapers, checking to see which ones were alive and which ones were dead. I glanced at the van, but it looked like all of the boxes containing the artifacts were still intact and inside. The Reapers hadn’t managed to get their hands on any of them.
I let out a long, weary breath, although my relief was short-lived. Because I knew that it wouldn’t be long before Vivian and Agrona struck again.
At least two dozen dead Reapers lay crumpled on the ground around the vehicles, and another half-dozen were rocking back and forth on the pavement and moaning from the pain of their wounds. I’d never seen so many of the other warriors in one place before, not even when they’d taken people hostage at the Aoide Auditorium during the winter band concert.
The more I looked around at the bloody chaos, the more my heart sank. Linus was right. The Reapers wouldn’t stop coming until they got their hands on whatever artifact it was they wanted so badly.
I just wondered if we’d be able to stop them the next time they attacked.
Three hours later, I was in one of the patient rooms in the academy infirmary, leaning against the wall and watching Professor Metis use her healing magic on Logan. She’d already used her power to take care of my minor injuries.
The professor held her hand up over the nasty cut on Logan’s forehead, a golden glow emanating from her palm and seeming to sink into his wound. A minute later, his skin knit together, and the deep gash seamlessly healed and disappeared completely. I let out a quiet sigh of relief that Logan hadn’t been hurt worse— and that none of my friends had been killed.
“There you go,” Metis said, dropping her hand. “Good as new.”
“Well, if I’m good as new, then why can’t I leave?” Logan groused.
Metis arched her black eyebrows. “Because you and
Sergei took the full force of the crash, that’s why.”
A knock sounded, and Linus opened the door and stepped into the room.
“How is he?” he asked Metis.
“He’ll be fine,” she answered. “So will everyone else. But I’d like to keep Logan and a few of the others here overnight, as a precaution.”
Linus nodded. “That sounds like a good idea.”
He went over and gently touched Logan’s shoulder. The Spartan reached up and squeezed his dad’s hand.
“I’m glad you’re okay, son,” Linus said, his voice husky with emotion.
“The same goes for you,” Logan replied.
Linus nodded, squeezed Logan’s hand back, and cleared his throat. Then, he turned toward me. I knew what he was going to say even before he spoke the words.
“The artifacts have been taken to the library basement,” Linus said.
I nodded. “Okay, I’ll be right there.”
Logan sat up in the hospital bed. “I’m coming too.” Linus shook his head. “You should stay here and get
some rest. Nothing’s going to happen to Miss Frost, son. I promise you that.”
“Just like you promised that nothing would go wrong on the trip back from the airport?” Logan countered.
“It’s okay,” Metis said. “I’m finished up here, so I’ll walk Gwen over to the library. Nickamedes will be there too. Linus is right. She’ll be safe, Logan. We’ll make sure of it.”
I put a hand on Logan’s arm. “See? Everything will be fine. You should stay here and rest, okay? Besides, I want to go check on my grandma too.”
Logan grumbled under his breath, but he leaned back against the pillow and let Metis pull the blanket up over him. That alone told me he was still feeling the jarring impact of the crash.
I kissed his cheek and left him alone with his dad. Metis led me to the next room over, where Grandma Frost was sitting on the edge of the bed, swinging her legs back and forth and making the scarves wrapped around her body merrily jingle-jingle-jingle in time to the motion.
“Finally,” she said, sliding off the bed and standing up. “I was wondering where you were, pumpkin.”
“You should sit back down and rest.”
Grandma waved her hand at me. “I feel fine. I was a little rattled by the crash, but Metis checked me out, and she says that I’m okay.”
I looked at Metis, who nodded.
“Geraldine didn’t even have so much as a cut on her,” Metis said. “She was very lucky.”
“And now, this very lucky lady is going home,” Grandma said, picking up her coat from the chair in the corner and shrugging into it. “I’ll feel much better after I take a long, hot bath, have a cup of tea and something sweet to eat, and get some sleep.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Maybe you should stay here in the infirmary tonight. Just in case.”
I didn’t add that part of me wanted her to stay. That part of me wanted to pretend I wasn’t Nike’s Champion, curl up in the hospital bed beside her, and have her stroke my hair and hum a soft lullaby until I drifted off to sleep. The way she had so many nights right after my mom had been murdered.
But I was Nike’s Champion, which meant that I couldn’t do any of those things. Not while there was still work to be done. Because it was up to me to stop the Reapers, and the first step to doing that was figuring out which artifact they wanted and why.
Grandma must have seen the worry and the weariness in my face because she came over and cupped my cheek with her warm, strong hand. “Don’t worry, pumpkin,” she said, stroking her thumb over my skin. “I’m fine. Really.”
“But what about the Reapers?” I asked. “Vivian and Agrona are still out there. Who knows what they’ll do next?”
“Inari is driving Geraldine home, and Aiko and some of the other guards are going to stay there and watch over her tonight,” Metis said. “Don’t worry, Gwen. The Reapers won’t get anywhere near your grandmother.”
Well, that made me feel a little better, but not much. Because I hadn’t thought that the Reapers would poison Nickamedes in the Library of Antiquities either. Or attempt to put Loki’s soul into Logan’s body. Or murder my mom to try to find out where she had hidden the Helheim Dagger. Or any of the other horrible things that they’d done over the past several months. If there was one thing I’d learned during my time at Mythos, it was that the Reapers were predictably unpredictable, and that all of the guards in the world couldn’t stop them when they put a plan into motion.
Grandma Frost winked at me. “And I’m going to use this chance to fatten up all those guards. It seems to me like these Protectorate folks could use some homemade cakes and cookies. I’ll bake something for you too, pumpkin.”
“I’ll come get it tomorrow afternoon,” I promised. “I’ll see you then.”
Grandma Frost drew me into her arms and hugged me tight. I hugged her back, holding on to her for as long as I could, and trying to blink back the tears in my eyes before she or Metis saw them.
Grandma Frost, Professor Metis, and I stepped out into the front part of the infirmary. As promised, Inari was waiting there to take Grandma home. She gave me one final wave before looping her arm through his and disappearing from sight.
“Come on,” Metis said. “We should get over to the library. Linus is probably waiting on us by now.”
I nodded and followed her out of the waiting room and then out of the building. It was late afternoon now, and the sun had already started to set behind the mountains. The soft lavender twilight was giving way to the shadows as the darkness slowly swallowed up the last bits of purple and gray that streaked the sky. With the short winter days, it seemed like the academy was dark and gloomy more often than not. Or maybe that was just my perpetual worry, since I still wasn’t any closer to figuring out how to kill Loki than when I’d started. And I couldn’t help but feel like time was running out, something that the Reaper attack today had only reinforced. The final battle was coming—probably much sooner than I realized—and I still didn’t know how we could win it.
I still didn’t know what I could possibly do to save the people I loved.
Metis and I walked in silence, both of us with our chins tucked down into the scarves wrapped around our necks, our breath still steaming in the cold air despite the layers of cloth. Still, I didn’t mind the schlep across campus. It seemed like the first time in ages that Metis and I had been alone, and there was something I had wanted to ask her about for weeks now—Nickamedes.
“We haven’t had a chance to talk much lately,” I said as we crested the hill and stepped onto the main quad.
Metis sighed. “I know, and I’m sorry about that, Gwen. It’s just with everything that’s been going on . . .” I waved my hand. “There’s no need to apologize or explain. I’ve had a lot going on too.” I hesitated. “And
I’ve learned a lot of things these past few weeks.” “Really? Like what?”
I drew in a breath. “Like the fact that you’re in love with Nickamedes.”
Metis stopped cold. Seriously, she just—stopped, as though she’d been somehow frozen in place. If not for her breath still steaming in the air, I might have thought her some lifelike statue, like the ones perched on the towers of the English-lit building that loomed above our heads.
“I flashed on you the night Nickamedes was poisoned in the library,” I said. “I wasn’t looking for anything or trying to see anything. My fingers brushed yours, and it just happened. You were so worried about him, and I realized how much you loved him.”
Metis nodded, accepting my explanation, although she kept her gaze averted from mine. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Your touch magic is so strong. I should have known that you would figure out how I felt about him sooner or later. Sometimes, I think it’s so painfully obvious that I wonder if everyone doesn’t already know, especially Nickamedes.”
She laughed, but the sound was small and bitter, and she reached up and smoothed back her black hair, even though every strand was already securely tucked away in her usual bun.
“Why don’t you tell Nickamedes how you feel?” Her face darkened. “There are a lot of reasons.”