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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
Linus had decided to place the candle in one of the most visible sections in the entire library, right in the middle of the main floor, close to the checkout counters. When I’d first come to Mythos, another artifact case had stood in that exact same spot, one that had held the Bowl of Tears. A Reaper named Jasmine Ashton had tried to use that powerful artifact to get revenge on Morgan McDougall for messing around with Jasmine’s boyfriend.
Seeing Sol’s candle in the exact same spot gave me a creepy sense of déjà vu. Because Jasmine had almost succeeded in using the Bowl of Tears to sacrifice Morgan to Loki and kill me the night of the homecoming dance. And now, here was another powerful artifact, sitting right out in the open, just begging the Reapers to come and steal it.
I glanced around the library, my gaze taking in the other kids hunched over their books at the study tables, browsing through the stacks, and standing around the coffee cart, waiting for Raven to unbuckle her tool belt and get back to fixing their lattes, espressos, and hot chocolates. Everything looked perfectly normal, perfectly ordinary, perfectly innocent, but I still couldn’t help but wonder if the Amazon texting on her phone a few feet away was telling Vivian that the candle was on view. Or if the Viking leaning against the checkout counter fiddling with a tablet was e-mailing the information to Agrona. Or if one of the members of the Protectorate gathered around Linus was dreaming up a way to kill all of the other guards and take off with the candle.
But the really frustrating thing was that there was nothing I could do about any of those things—not until Vivian, Agrona, and the other Reapers decided to strike. “Come on, now, Gwen,” a low voice said. “Staring at the candle won’t change anything. If you ask me, you’re simply attracting more attention to it. And yourself too.” I glanced down at Vic, who was hanging from my belt as usual. The sword stared at the candle, his purple
eye bright against the white marble all around us. “Look around,” Vic said, still keeping his voice low
so that I was the only one who could hear him. “Everyone’s wondering what you’re doing.”
I glanced around again and realized he was right. All of the other kids had been doing their own thing, but now, more than a few had turned in my direction, wondering what I was doing staring at some boring old artifact. If only they knew that this boring old artifact might mean the difference between whether we all lived, died, or spent what was left of our lives as Loki’s slaves. “Okay, okay,” I grumbled. “I’m leaving. But I want
to go on record as saying that this is a Bad, Bad Idea.” Vic rolled his eye. “Well, obviously. But there’s noth-
ing we can do about it tonight, so why don’t you quit worrying and go see the Spartan in the infirmary?”
He was right. There was nothing more I could do here, and I did want to check on Logan. So I pushed away from the glass wall, went around the checkout counter, and headed for the doors that led out of the library.
Still, right before I left the main space, I couldn’t help but glance over my shoulder one more time. For a moment, it seemed like the candle glowed with a brilliant inner light, making it burn as bright as a star underneath the smooth glass. I blinked, and the light was gone. The candle was simply a candle again.
I shivered, dropped my gaze from the artifact, and left the library.
Despite my unease, the night passed by in a quiet fashion. Metis gave Logan, Sergei, and everyone else who’d been more seriously injured in the Reaper attack a clean bill of health and let everyone leave the infirmary bright and early the next morning. After weapons training in the gym, Logan and I wound up in the dining hall to eat a quick breakfast before trudging to our morning classes.
Like everything else at Mythos, the dining hall was way more upscale than what you’d find at a regular high school. White linens and fine china covered the tables, instead of plastic trays and sporks, while paintings of mythological feasts decorated the walls, and suits of armor stood guard in the corners. But the dining hall’s most interesting feature was the open-air indoor garden that lay in the center of the room, complete with statues perched among the almond, orange, and olive trees planted in the black soil and the curling tendrils of the grapevines that wound around, through, and over everything. Since this was where all of the students chowed down, the statues were mostly of food and harvest gods, like Dionysus and Demeter, instead of the fierce mythological creatures that adorned the outsides of the buildings. But once again this morning, the statues had strangely neutral expressions on their stone faces, instead of cocking their heads to the side and leaning forward, as though they were listening to all of the student gossip, the way they usually did.
“Still worried about the candle?” Logan asked, cutting into my thoughts.
I dragged my gaze away from the statues. Last night, I had filled Logan in on Sol’s candle and his dad’s plans to leave it on display as bait for the Reapers. “Why do you think that?”
He gestured with his fork at my plate. “Because you’ve barely touched your peach waffles.”
“Are they peach?” I groused. “I couldn’t really tell with all of the whipped cream flowers on top of them.” That was the other way in which the dining hall had little resemblance to a regular cafeteria—the food was far fancier than the usual boxes of cereal and bottles of milk you’d find at breakfast time at any normal school. Instead, the Mythos chefs were standing behind a series of cooking stations along one of the walls, whipping up made-to-order, gourmet waffles, omelets, and other delicacies that featured everything from creamy feta cheese to buttery lobster to crispy pancetta. I wasn’t particularly hungry this morning, so I’d grabbed the first thing I’d come to on the breakfast line that looked like regular food—peach Belgian waffles. Although the chefs had still managed to add their own froufrou twist to the waffles by decorating the tops of them with mounds of whipped cream swirled into the shape of fancy flowers and curlicued leaves, all dusted with bits of orange, lemon, and lime zest. In fact, there were so many flowers and leaves on the top of the waffles that I almost thought I was eating a frosted birthday cake, minus the candles.
Thinking about birthday cake and candles made me focus on Sol’s candle, sitting in the library, waiting for some Reaper to come along and steal it right out from under our noses—
“My dad knows what he’s doing,” Logan said, interrupting my thoughts again. “He won’t let the Reapers get the candle.”
“I know he’ll do his best,” I replied. “And so will all of the other Protectorate guards. But Vivian and Agrona take scheming to a whole new level of evil. They always have a plan within a plan within a plan. You should know that better than anyone.”
Logan grimaced, then reached up and rubbed his throat with his hand.
“I’m sorry,” I said, regretting my snarky words. “I
didn’t mean to remind you—”
“That I tried to kill you?” he said. “It’s okay, Gwen. Trust me. I don’t need you to remind me of that. It’s not like it’s something I could forget—ever.”
Oh no. He only called me Gwen when he was being dead serious—or when I’d struck a nerve. Logan’s attack was like an invisible live wire sparking in the space between us, one that brought sharp, stinging jolts of pain and misery whenever we got too close to it. That distant, haunted look filled his icy eyes again, the one that had been there on and off ever since Agrona had snapped that gold collar full of Apate jewels around his neck at the Aoide Auditorium. The one that always seemed to come back just when I thought it was finally gone for good. The one that always seemed to come between us no matter how much we tried to pretend that everything was fine.
I let out a breath, leaned over, and gripped his hand. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m just worried right now about everything. Vivian, Agrona, the Reapers, the candle, Loki. It’s like your dad said. Everything seems to be coming to a turning point. But I don’t know what that turning point is or if things will even go the way we want them to.”
Logan looked at me, his gaze sharpening. “I know there’s a lot going on, but are you sure that nothing else is bothering you? You’ve been really distracted these last few days. Ever since we came back from Colorado, actually.”
I thought of all the things I hadn’t told him, all the secrets I’d been keeping from him, all the pressure I felt to find some way to save us all from the unending horror that was Loki.
I let go of his hand, not wanting to accidentally let him feel any of my turbulent emotions since my skin had been touching his. “Nothing’s wrong.” I tried to smile. “At least, nothing more so than usual.”
Perhaps the biggest secret I was keeping was the fact that I hadn’t told Logan that I was the one who was supposed to kill Loki. I’d especially kept quiet about that because I knew exactly what he would say. That it was impossible. That no one could do it. That it was a suicide mission. But even worse was my fear that Logan might try to do the job for me, in order to try to protect me. Because that was one fight I knew he wouldn’t win, much less survive.
I didn’t think I would survive it, either, but I was determined not to take the Spartan or any of my other friends down with me.
“Everything will work out,” Logan insisted, still trying to reassure me. “You’ll see.”
I wished I could have shared in his confidence, but I didn’t—I just didn’t. I’d already lost too many battles to Vivian and Agrona to think that they wouldn’t win this one too. But I knew Logan and his dad were trying to work things out, trying to fix their relationship, so I kept my mouth shut. Arguing with him and undermining his new fragile trust in Linus wouldn’t solve anything, and it certainly wouldn’t stop the Reapers from striking.
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” I said, forcing myself to smile at him.
Logan grinned back at me. “Of course, I’m right. I’m
I rolled my eyes, leaned over, and lightly punched him in the shoulder. “And now you sound like Vic.”
“No, he doesn’t,” Vic piped up from his spot in the chair I’d propped him up in. “I am much more confident than the Spartan is.” He sniffed. “And with good reason.”
Logan and I both laughed, and the tension between us eased.
We ate our food in silence for the next several minutes. Despite all of the whipped cream, I had to admit that the peach Belgian waffles were surprisingly good. The batter was light and airy, with thick chunks of fresh, ripe peaches sprinkled throughout it, and the peach syrup drizzled over everything added even more sweetness to the dish. I’d also gotten a stack of bacon, which was perfectly crispy, while the hash browns were oozing with sharp cheddar cheese, just the way I liked them. I washed everything down with a glass of fresh-squeezed apple juice, enjoying the cool fruity concoction.
I had finished eating and had pushed my plate away when Logan reached over and grabbed my hand again, threading his fingers through mine. A soft, lighthearted sensation surged through me at the contact, and I sighed, enjoying this rare moment of peaceful happiness.
“So,” he said. “Do you think we can talk about the
Valentine’s Day dance now?” “What’s there to talk about?”
“What time you want me to pick you up, what color dress you’re wearing so I can get the right kind of corsage, where you want to go to make out after the dance is over with.” Logan gave me a wink. “You know. All the usual stuff.”
I laughed. “You must be feeling pretty confident to say something like that.”
His grin widened. “Always.”
I arched my eyebrow, then leaned forward and crooked my finger at him. Logan leaned in as well, as though we were conspiring about something terribly important.
“Well,” I said in a husky voice, staring into his blue, blue eyes. “The answers to your questions are seven o’clock, silver, and anywhere you want to take me. How do you like that?”
Logan’s grin widened. “I like those answers just fine.” He kissed me, his lips just barely brushing mine, although the soft, feathery touch still sent a wave of heat scorching through my veins. With everything that had been going on, we hadn’t had a lot of time to focus on us, and I knew Logan was trying to take my mind off things by asking me about the dance, by trying to pretend, at least for a few minutes, that we were a normal couple, eagerly planning our big night out. But instead, he only made me think about how far I’d come from that naïve, clueless girl who’d fallen in love with him at the homecoming dance last year—and how far I still had to go before things were settled.
One way or the other.
Logan drew back, grinned again, and opened his mouth, like he was going to tease me some more, but I didn’t give him the chance. I leaned in and kissed him again, wrapping my arms around his neck and desperately trying to ignore the little voice in the back of my mind that whispered that if the Reapers had their way, the dance would never take place.
And I probably would be dead soon, regardless of anything else that happened in the meantime.
Logan and I finished breakfast, and I schlepped to my first class, trailed as usual by Alexei. To my surprise, the rest of the day passed by in a completely normal and utterly boring fashion. Morning classes. Lunch with Daphne, Carson, Oliver, and Alexei in the dining hall. More classes in the afternoon. And then, finally, it was time for me to go visit Grandma Frost, as I’d promised her I would.
When I’d first come to Mythos, I’d snuck off campus to go see my grandma a few times every week before coming back to work my shifts at the Library of Antiquities, even though students weren’t supposed to leave campus during the week. But Linus Quinn and the rest of the Powers That Were at the academy had eventually realized they couldn’t stop me from going to visit my grandma; nobody batted an eye at my off-campus trips anymore.