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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
“Well, if you won’t save her, then I will,” I snarled. “No matter what it takes.”
I got to my feet, grabbed Vic, and stormed out of the room.
I knew that there was no use arguing with Linus, so I hurried into the waiting room, with Nyx scrambling to keep up with me. My friends were all there—Daphne, Carson, Oliver, Alexei, Logan. So was Raven, sitting at the reception desk, her black combat boots propped up on top of the smooth wooden surface, reading through one of her celebrity gossip magazines like usual. Raven gave me a curious look, then flipped another page. The faint crackle was the only sound in the room.
I stopped in front of my friends and stared at Logan. The sad, stricken look on his face—on all their faces— told me that he already knew Linus wasn’t going to trade the candle for my grandma. I’d thought that Logan going all Reaper and trying to kill me had been bad, but this—this felt like a whole new level of betrayal.
By everyone I cared about.
“Miss Frost, please wait,” Linus said, following me into the room.
Metis and Ajax trailed after him, with Nickamedes bringing up the rear.
I whirled around to face him. “Why? So I can stand around and count down the hours until my grandma dies?”
“It’s not like that at all, and you know it,” Linus said. “As I said before, we will do everything in our power to find your grandmother.”
“Before or after the Reapers kill her?”
Linus pressed his lips into a tight, thin line and crossed his arms over his chest.
Daphne came over and tentatively laid a hand on my arm, pink sparks of magic streaking out of her fingertips and landing on my dirty clothes before quickly winking out. “Gwen, why don’t you take it easy?”
I shrugged off her hand. “Take it easy?” I let out a harsh, bitter laugh. “I can’t take it easy. I can never take it easy. Not until Loki is dead.”
Daphne frowned. “What do you mean?”
I looked around and realized all of my friends were staring at me with the same wary, curious expression as she. Suddenly, I was so tired—tired of all the lies, all the secrets, all the problems that never seemed to end.
I let out another bitter laugh. “You really don’t get it, do you? You don’t know what’s going on at all. None of you do. Except for her.”
I jerked my head at Metis, but she stared back at me, her face neutral.
“What do you mean?” Logan asked, coming to stand beside me. “Gwen, I know you’re upset, but what are you talking about?”
“The candle,” I said. “I’m talking about the damn candle. Yeah, the Reapers want it to heal Loki, but that’s not all they’re going to get out of it.”
Linus frowned. “What else could they possibly do with it? What else could they want it for? Surely, returning Loki to his full strength is their top priority.”
“It may be the Reapers’ ultimate goal, but it’s not his,” I said. “Loki wants to be whole again, sure, for one specific reason—so he can finally murder me.”
“And how do you know that?” Logan asked. “Because,” I spat out the words. “I’m the one who’s
supposed to kill him. I’m the one who’s supposed to kill
Silence. Complete, utter silence.
Linus whirled around to face Metis, his gray robe snapping around his body before falling free again. “Aurora? Is this true? How long have you known about this?” “Yes, I’m afraid it’s true.” She lifted her chin. “And I’ve known ever since the incident at the Garm gate when Loki was freed in the first place. That’s when Gwen told me that killing Loki was the ultimate mission Nike had given her, something the Reapers believe she can do
“And why didn’t you tell me about this?” Linus demanded.
“Because I knew you’d probably take Gwen away from the academy, her friends, and her grandmother,” Metis said. “Knowing you, Linus, you would have kept Gwen under lock and key until you thought it was time for her to finally complete her mission.”
An angry flush stained his cheeks, but he didn’t deny her accusations.
“I would have done what was best for Miss Frost,” Linus said in a stiff voice.
“Yeah,” I sniped. “Because letting the Reapers kill my grandma is what’s best for me.”
He turned to stare at me, but I glared right back at him. Anger didn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling. Neither did rage. It was . . . I just felt . . . fury. Molten, unending, white-hot fury. Because of all the evil that Loki and the Reapers had done, because of all the hard choices and sacrifices I’d been forced to make, because of all the loved ones I’d lost. And now, my grandma’s life was hanging in the balance, and no one seemed to want to save her but me.
“But Metis is right,” Linus said, finally breaking the silence. “You need to be protected at all costs, Miss Frost.”
He pulled his phone out of his pants pocket. “I’m going to get Sergei and Inari over here right now. We’ll get you to a secure location—”
“No,” I cut in. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m afraid you don’t have a choice, Miss Frost,” Linus said. “If you can somehow actually kill Loki, then you need far more protection. At the very least, we need to relocate you from the academy to somewhere much more secure.”
“Where I can do what? Twiddle my thumbs until the Reapers find me and try to kill me again? I don’t think so,” I said. “And I do have a choice. I always have a choice. It’s a little thing called free will. Maybe you should read up on it. I’m sure there are some books about it in the library that Nickamedes could find for you.”
That angry flush darkened on Linus’s pale cheeks. “You are leaving the academy, Miss Frost. It’s not a request. It’s an order.”
“I don’t take orders from you.” I raised Vic. “You so much as lay one finger on me or order any of your Protectorate guards to do the same, and I will fight back with everything I have. Worse than that, I’ll use my magic on you. My touch magic. Remember at my trial when I told you that I used it to kill Preston Ashton? Well, I could do the exact same thing to you, Mr. Quinn.”
Carson gasped at my threat, and my other friends all looked shocked. Logan kept glancing back and forth between me and his dad, not sure what to do. Even Linus looked a bit uncertain, his eyes flicking to my hand, which was wrapped tight around Vic’s hilt.
“I’m a Champion, remember?” I snarled. “Nike’s Champion, the best of the best. That’s what you told Nickamedes once. Believe me when I tell you that you don’t want me to prove it to you.”
“You’re angry right now,” Linus said. “I understand that. I know how hard it is to lose the people you love to the Reapers.”
His gaze went to Logan, and the raw, naked hurt in Linus’s eyes cut through my fury, leaving nothing behind but a hollow, bitter ache in my heart.
“I understand that,” I replied, echoing his words. “And I’m so sorry about your wife and daughter. Sorrier than you will ever know. But you have a chance to help me save my grandma. Will you do that? Please? Or are you going to leave her to the Reapers?”
Linus stared at me, and I could see the struggle in his eyes. I knew he was weighing my grandma’s life against all of those he was responsible for, every single member of the Pantheon. And I knew what his decision would be, what it had to be. If our positions had been reversed, I probably would have done the exact same thing. I’d already lost so much to the Reapers—we all had—and I didn’t want to give them the candle either. I didn’t want to make Loki stronger. I didn’t want to potentially bring about the destruction of the Protectorate and the Pantheon.
But I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my grandma— I just couldn’t bear it.
“I’m sorry, Miss Frost,” Linus said. “But I cannot give the Reapers the candle under any circumstances.”
I gave him a stiff nod. “You don’t want to trade the candle for my grandma? That’s fine. I understand your reasoning. Really, I do. But don’t expect me to save you in return.”
I turned, pushed past my friends, and stormed out of the infirmary.
I didn’t get far. I’d just stepped back outside when Nyx and my friends caught up with me. Daphne, Carson, Oliver, Alexei, Logan.
Daphne was the quickest, and she darted forward and latched on to my arm, stopping me in my tracks with her Valkyrie strength. “Nike told you that you’re supposed to kill Loki? Why? Why didn’t you tell any of us about that?”
The others gathered around me, forming an unbreakable ring, and I found myself sighing.
“Because I didn’t want you to worry,” I said. “I figured I was worried enough for all of us.”
“How does she expect you to do that?” Oliver asked, his green eyes dark and serious.
I thought of the laurel bracelet hanging off my wrist. “I have no idea.”
I figured it wasn’t actually a lie, since I didn’t know how to use the bracelet to kill Loki, or if it could really even hurt him in the first place.
“Why didn’t you tell us, Gwen?” Carson asked again, peering at me through his black glasses. “Why didn’t you let us know what you were dealing with? We would have helped you through it. You should have known that.”
The hurt and sorrow in his eyes made the rest of my anger evaporate. “I do know that, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you guys before. With everything that’s been going on, there never seemed to be a good time to bring it up.” I winced even as I said the words. Because they were some of the same lame excuses that Grandma Frost, Metis, and Nickamedes had used to keep secrets from me, like my mom being Nike’s Champion, or my dad, Tyr Forseti, being a Reaper at one time. I never thought I would do the same thing to my friends, but I had
plenty of secrets of my own to hide from them.
Logan stepped forward and put his hand on my arm, just like Daphne had done, but I didn’t shake him off. I was suddenly too tired for that.
“I’m sorry about my dad,” Logan said, his blue eyes warm and sympathetic. “I couldn’t believe it when he said that he wasn’t going to trade the candle for your grandma. None of us could when he told us about it in the infirmary. We tried to get him to change his mind— we all did—but he wouldn’t.”
“And you’re okay with it?”
Logan sighed, looking as tired as I felt. “No, I’m not okay with it—not at all. But my dad’s right. Even if we handed the candle over to the Reapers, we don’t have any guarantee that they wouldn’t kill your grandma anyway. Or try to murder you too. Especially if they think you can somehow kill Loki.”
“Really?” I asked, my voice dipping to a low, dangerous level. “And what if it was your dad that the Reapers had kidnapped? Or your mom or your sister? What would you do then? Would you stand by and let the Reapers kill them when you knew that you could save them?”
Logan stared at me, a stricken look on his face. “I didn’t think so,” I said in a sad voice.
I knew it was wrong, taking my hurt, worry, and fear out on Logan and the rest of my friends, but I was just so angry. Not only at the Reapers, but at Linus Quinn and the stupid Protectorate too.
But most of all, I hated Nike for putting me in this situation to begin with. Not for the first time, I wondered why the goddess had chosen me to be her Champion, out of all the people in the world. Why me? I’d never asked for the responsibility, and I certainly didn’t want it. Not only that, but I wasn’t the smartest person around, or the best warrior, or even the bravest. But the goddess had picked me for some mysterious reason, and now I was stuck here, trapped in a tangled web of schemes, prophecies, and riddles that made no sense. Trying to figure out the best thing to do, and knowing I would lose something—or somebody—no matter what decision I made.
I let out a breath. “Look, I’m sorry for everything. I just . . . didn’t expect Linus to tell me that he wasn’t going to rescue my grandma. I know you’re all worried about me, but I’m going to go back to my room. I . . . need to be by myself for a little while, okay?”
I looked at my friends. Daphne with the pink sparks of magic still hissing out of her fingertips. Carson pushing his black glasses up his nose. Oliver with his arms crossed over his chest. Alexei looking as stoic as ever. And Logan, staring at me like I was some stranger he’d never seen before—one he didn’t want to know.
“Okay,” Daphne said. “But at least let us go with you back to your dorm.”
I nodded, too tired to argue with her. About this, at least.
My friends walked me back to Styx Hall in complete silence. We reached the steps that led up to the front door, then stood there, not sure what to do, not sure what to say to each other now that I’d had my complete and utter meltdown.
Finally, Daphne stepped forward and hugged me, cracking my back with her strength. “I’ll call you later, okay?”
Tears stung my eyes, but I blinked them back. “Yeah. Sure. Thanks.”
She drew back, then she and Carson turned and walked away, holding hands and whispering to each other.
Oliver came over and slung his arm around my shoulder too. “It’ll be okay, Gwen. You’ll see.”
I nodded, too choked up to speak. Alexei nodded at me and touched my shoulder; then he and Oliver hurried away as well.